On March 8-9th, 2022, the National Apartment Association (NAA) will be hosting their annual NAA Advocate conference, which gives members of NAA a chance to vocalize key issues within property management and the rental housing industry with legislators.
When we started ResMan, I wanted to make sure that everyone in our company understood that we are part of the housing industry, what impacts our customers, their investors and their renters impacts us as well. As part of doing our part, ResMan team members will be joining other NAA members throughout the country in meeting with their Congressmen and women to address rental housing concerns where legislation could be of help.
Conversations will be focused around the fourteen key issues that NAA lists on their website. This affords members and frontline workers to share their story at the national level to better advocate for themselves and their residents on both micro and macro levels.
The conference features keynote speakers, Q and A sessions, educational discussions on emerging policy issues and a briefing on what to address during visits with Congress.
To better understand priorities for Advocate 2022, we sat down with Jason Simon, Director of Government Affairs at the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas. In our discussion with Jason, we found 3 key issues stood out for members and others in the property management industry. We’ve listed some details so you can better prepare for your conversations.
The “Yes In My Back Yard” Act legislation would remove barriers to housing development and help address the nation’s housing affordability crisis. Specifically, it would encourage localities to eliminate discriminatory land use policies and remove barriers that prevent needed housing from being built around the country by requiring Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recipients to report periodically on the extent to which they are removing discriminatory land use policies and implementing inclusive and affordable housing options. Reducing regulations and administrative barriers present in local jurisdictions could dramatically boost housing affordability in the U.S. Lawmakers need to push YIMBY through.
Despite bipartisan support for the YIMBY Act, lawmakers have delayed moving this forward. The NIMBY Act (Not In My Back Yard) has created limited supply and an overwhelming demand in rental housing. Most who back the NIMBY Act have complete misconceptions of the rental housing industry and see apartment building as a threat to their cities. With inflation and rising gas prices, metropolitan cities are suffering on the outskirts as there is lack of affordable rental housing and commutes are now considered just as expensive as renting.
Section 8 Housing Voucher Program
The Section 8 Housing Voucher Program is a voluntary program NAA has long supported. While it is one of the most successful rental subsidy programs, many members are asking for changes and reforms to the fifty-year-old program. The program itself could use a face lift and aim toward a more user-friendly benefit for landlords. There is legislation which would essentially incentivize more landlords to use the program and cut back the red tape on regulations.
NAA has a great chart for their members showing the standard leasing process versus the Section 8 process. The most noticeable difference is how much more streamlined conventional leasing is compared to affordable. This is where effective legislative changes could drastically improve the use of the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program across the country. The composed legislation suggests changes and reforms such as:
Awarding incentive payments to housing providers that are new participants or operate in high-volume areas
A mitigation fund so owners can better manage repairs and damages
Establishing inspection reciprocity to allow owners and operators already subject to other inspection protocols to satisfy HCV (Housing Choice Voucher) requirements
A landlord liaison to support landlords during the Section 8 process
Members of NAA are speaking up to lawmakers regarding the CARES Act and Eviction Moratoriums. Though the CARES Act was passed with bipartisan support in March 2020, many saw this as a temporary solution to prevent an unprecedented economic disaster during COVID-19. Two years later, the eviction moratorium was extended and properties covered under the CARES Act are still required to give 30-day notices for evictions. This can cause problems for properties upon arriving in court.
As Jason Simon explains, “The reality of it is, if you don’t give that notice and you go into JP court, file your eviction, you’re before the judge, the judge is going to ask you, ‘Are you covered under the CARES Act?’ If you say you’re not covered and you are covered, your case could be dismissed and that’s the end result. The problem is that [30-day notice requirement] should have expired with the 120-day eviction moratorium. It was temporary, it was ‘Let’s get through the pandemic, until we have vaccines and rental assistance and get rid of it.’ But the 30-day notice to vacate is still in place and there’s no end date. So, it will not end until legislators end it.”
NAA members are asking lawmakers to sunset the federal eviction moratorium to halt the destabilization of the rental housing market. The moratorium has restricted property owners’ ability to pay mortgages, salaries, property taxes, maintenance and utilities, ultimately putting many properties into jeopardy and out of business. Small businesses have been especially hard hit. But the answer isn’t just to end the moratorium, since the moratorium has led some renters to accumulate debt that they will be unable to pay when the moratorium ends. Instead, NAA members will be advocating for a clear end date to the moratorium AND for Congress to offer increased rental assistance to allow renters that have been unable to pay some or all of their rent during the moratorium to catch up on rent payments and remain in their homes.
Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Antoinette Williams of CARROLL and Lissi Daniels at Madera Residential to talk about the challenges faced by minorities in Multifamily and how DEI and the support of executive leadership can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable industry. They’ll also discuss how legislation is supporting DEI efforts on a macro and micro level.
Elizabeth Francisco: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. Thank you for joining PropTalk, a property management podcast powered by ResMan. I’m Elizabeth Francisco. I’m the president here at ResMan and I am your host for today’s episode. “Don’t DIY Your DEI: The Quest for Equity and Inclusion in Multifamily. Today, we will be hearing from two very incredible professionals in the multifamily industry, as they share their perspectives as black women on their quest to be included, to be heard and to achieve equity.
And we’re going to be jumping just right on in, because this is an important topic. First I am delighted to welcome Antoinette back. Antoinette Williams is the Regional Vice President of CARROLL Property Management. And she has joined me before for another DEI topic about owning your career and trailblazing your way to the table.
So if you have not checked it out, I truly I’m asking, begging, go check it out. It was fantastic. And thank you again for that. We had great response from it. You could have two careers if you wanted them.
Antoinette Williams: What? (laughter )
Elizabeth Francisco: So to start us off Antoinette, can you just remind our listeners a little bit about, your career in property management and maybe also talk about, what are the things that you really love about this industry? And maybe if there’s anything that frustrates you about this industry?
Antoinette Williams: So thank you for having me back. It’s great. This is fun last time. I’m sure it’ll be a fun episode this time. So I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and I worked my way up from leasing consultant to now Regional Vice President. I’ve worked all the positions in between and I’ve been with my current company, CARROLL for seven and a half years and currently support the Georgia and Western markets.
And one of my proudest titles is that I’m an executive sponsor of our diversity and inclusion council. So I have I have the responsibility [00:02:00] of helping to just move things along, help provide feedback and ensure that our D&I counsel achieves what it sets out to achieve. First what I didn’t like about this industry when I first got into at you already know it’s leasing. What I didn’t like about leasing though, was I felt like I was at the bottom of the totem pole and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. So being at the bottom of the totem pole was not fun for me. I wanted more responsibility. And there was just a consistent cycle of doing the same thing over and over answering the phone, doing a tours, entering guest cards and sending those handwritten thank you notes.
It was mentally exhausting for me because I’m a creative and I wanted to do something more. But what I loved about it was really the endless possibilities that I could do whatever I really wanted to do within this this industry. I loved that there were so many opportunities in this industry and I could, go down accounting. I could be in marketing, I could do whatever I wanted. I really liked the possibilities, yeah.
Elizabeth Francisco: So I don’t know if you knew this, but I’m the executive champion of our D&I committee. And interestingly enough, I think as we go through this conversation, I’m anxious to hear what you’re going to share and see what I can learn from it and what I can do to take that forward too. Cause I have a feeling that the two different committees may have different perspectives and ours in all honesty, we’ve struggled with it. I look forward to having some conversation and seeing what I can learn from this. I also want to welcome today a newcomer to the prop talk podcast Lissi Daniels of Madera Residential.
And can you help us, share with our listeners a little bit about your career in multi-family and what do you really love about it? And what are things that might be frustrating to you?
Lissi Daniels: Yes. Thank you for having me. I am the Director of Sales and Leasing with Madera Residential. I’ve been in multifamily for over 15, 16 years, and just like everyone else started off as leasing, but to be the opposite of Ms. Antoinette, I loved [00:04:00] leasing. And that’s only because I love sales and I worked my way up to where I’m currently at right now. And I would say I love multifamily because of the endless opportunities and just the growth, but it’s also for the connecting and lasting friendships that you make in this industry, you can never not say, “Oh, I met you a long time ago or met you with a different company.”
So definitely that is one thing that I really love, you got to love multifamily. And as far as something I don’t like of that, being when I started off as a leasing agent and being to where we’re at now, it’s not seeing that representation of minorities and not seeing them in those leadership and executive roles to where I could say, wow, I want to be where she is at or I have room to grow. And I have an opportunity to be in that position and work my way up. How do I get there? And where’s that mentor or that person for me at that? So those would probably be the cons of it with that.
Elizabeth Francisco: Oh, I couldn’t have asked you to set this up any better, but what a great segue into the into our topics today and, as you’re talking it, resonates with me about the lack of representation, because back in early 2019, I was working to submit a session submission to the NAA’s Apartmentalize, and it was a diversity and inclusion and equity topic.
And what I had planned to do and what I tried to do was I wanted to put together a really diverse panel of women that had achieved equity, the ultimate equity, they were partners in their businesses. And as I worked on the topics, what we’re going to talk about, I had to start looking and I had no idea when I came up with this idea what I was going to experience, which was, I’m not kidding, I think we talked about this back before when we were prepping for FAA in our panel. But I went through, I’m not kidding, 75 websites because that’s where I started. I was just looking right. And I couldn’t find any of that representation in the, the managing partners or the founders. And then that [00:06:00] led to a bunch of really awkward conversations because I’m having to ask people, by the way, do you happen to know anyone that’s a minority and a woman, that’s a partner in that role.
And that really stuck with me about how unfortunate that is. And that’s really what led me into, how can I just do more than want to support DEI in my own company, but how do we go back into the industry and how do we give back and how do we help fix that? So I want to hopefully be a champion of change for that. Like I said to say that minority women were lacking representation might be the understatement of the year. And I think this is a good forum and we get to start those conversations. And like you said, how does that impact your aspirational goals when you don’t see people like you? And that was the whole point of why I was trying to do that.
I wanted to help, I wanted to give people hope and figure how we get there. So during today’s episode, we’re going to have, and continue to have a pretty open conversation about the realities of career progression for people of color in our industry or other marginally represented groups. And also how it can look very different from their white counterparts. Again, I’m very excited to have you two here, and I appreciate your commitment to the conversation and the transparency because you two are both on your way to navigating your way to, no doubt, top level executive positions. But also I’m sure along your journeys, you’ve probably encountered and faced some things yourself on your own on that journey.
So it’s funny, I was, we were prepping for this, we have a lot of PropTalk sessions and we start with our marketing team and we plan these out for a whole year. And we also have different topics outside of property management and operations and things like that. But we also have our DEI initiatives.
And so when we were looking at it and we were starting talking about it, I think I shared with Antoinette, I had no doubt I could reach out to you and you would participate because you’re just awesome like that. And I love you, but I also felt conflicted. Like really conflicted. Like you don’t even know.
I waited a whole week because in my head, I know that this Black History Month is an important month and it’s, and I understand why it would, it brings the conversation [00:08:00] forward and it keeps it relevant and it keeps it going. But then I also thought isn’t that part of the problem, because this is not a February month problem. It’s an every day problem. And so I was conflicted. And you’re going to blush, hopefully you blush in a second. But when I think of Antoinette, I obviously can tell you’re a black woman. I can see you. But I don’t think about that. Like the first thing that comes to mind is everything else, which is all how amazing your ability is your skillset as a leader, your expertise in the domain, and those are the things that come top of mind to me. You’re a rising star, not out of the pool of black women coming up through the ranks in this industry, but out of the pool of talent period, in fact, CARROLL better be damn glad I don’t have a management company or y’all would be in trouble.
(laughter from Antoinette and Lissi)
Elizabeth Francisco: And I mean that for our audience, I certainly hope that you guys will join us for PropTalk in the future where we are going to hear more about probably why her portfolios are beaten you. (laughter) But also, like I said for Lissi too, I’ve been getting to know you and I really excited and together, hopefully we can all help navigate our careers because I have my own set of challenges that are, similar but different. And we can learn from one in each other and help each other.
Lissi Daniels: That’s what change is all about. That’s right. Yup.
Elizabeth Francisco: And it comes back to you, like you said, there is a definite lack of representation in the industry today. So I was looking on that panel in 2019. It’s not like it’s changed that much if at all. There’s a disparity that anyone with pair of eyeballs can see at any trade association conference. As I mentioned on company websites in the makeup of ownership of management companies, in supplier companies, and even among investors. Truly to help are our peers coming up behind us, we need to help this conversation move forward so that they do see those people so that they know they can do it, too.
And hopefully through this conversation, Give them the hope and support to do it, even if they have to do it on their own to get there and to be the first in their markets or in their areas. But you guys were sitting here as examples of we can move forward, but doesn’t need [00:10:00] to be as hard. Yeah.
So the quest for inclusivity and equity starts with understanding the reality of others. I think we were talking about it. We need to understand what the experience is like for people of color in our companies that are trying to work their way up in the industry and in our businesses. And I’d say right now more than ever, given the fight for talent and the Great Resignation, right? You can’t afford to have this unfortunate level of thinking and devaluing of your talent. And it makes no sense. So we want to put it together, environments where people can flourish and achieve their career aspirations. We’re going to dive right in. This is a question for both of you.
I am curious because I don’t walk in your shoes. What do you think are the challenges today that black men and women are facing in our industry right now?
Lissi Daniels: Yeah, I can go ahead. I definitely can say, and I can only speak from my own perspective, but in my own experiences, I think the challenges we face is not being heard, not being listened to. (The goal is) being at the level to where we are just as good as our peers.
And I think that’s where one of the biggest issues evolved and I’ve experienced that. And just having that level: ” I’m just as good as the next person.” Just because of my color or who I am, even as a woman too, that doesn’t mean I should be discredited, and I think in our industry, we see that. We are being compared because “You don’t look a certain way, you don’t act a certain way. Your hair is not a certain way.” And in that to me, that’s where it causes more challenging issues and problems.
Antoinette Williams: I think in that’s right. I think I would say basically the same thing. I would sum it up as cultural misunderstandings and cultural misrepresentation. Even before I get into that, I was always the only black girl or black child in my classes growing up. And so once I got into the workforce and I was the only one, I don’t think that I recognized I always [00:12:00] wanted to have more of a connection culturally.
But it is just the way it is. And so when I really started to pay attention to some of the differences in the way that I was treated and some of my counterparts, my non POC (person of color) counterparts were treated, I realized there’s just a real misunderstanding and misrepresentation of my culture.
So we often hear people say in our industry and other industries that people are not a culture fit. And really it’s that people who are in power positions don’t understand the culture. And because we haven’t assimilated to the dominant culture, we are now viewed as not being a “culture fit” in that the way that we speak, maybe you speak with an accent, maybe you’re from somewhere in the South and you’re black.
Now, all of a sudden you are seen as an educated or inarticulate. Or maybe we like bright colors or maybe we just don’t do things the way the dominant culture does things. And so then we’re viewed as not a ” culture fit.” and I think the other thing is that there are some people who feel like they completely understand who we are and what we are.
And when I get into some situations with people, I hear, “Hey girl.” And I know the difference between: “I say, “Hey girl” all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, brown, whatever.” And someone saying “I’m going to behave this way with my white coworkers. But when I see Antoinette come in, “Hey girl.”” It has happened so many times where I’m like, “How did you just turn that on?” and don’t, “Hey girl” me. (laughter) If you didn’t “Hey girl” them, don’t “Hey girl” me because you’re assuming. It’s an assumption that that’s the way that I speak or that I am more “down” or whatever it may be. And it’s a misunderstanding. I am in a professional environment as professional as every other person who’s in that.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. It’s interesting what you were saying. I think back to when when Katrina hit and I don’t know if you guys were, how many years have you been in the industry?
Antoinette Williams: No, 15 years, I was not in the industry at that time.. [00:14:00]
Elizabeth Francisco: Okay. So you guys came in right after that then. So when Katrina happened, we had evacuees coming in to the state of Texas. And at the time I negotiated with the city of Plano instead of FEMA, because, you know, FEMA can’t get their act together. So I went straight to city of Plano and we opened up our Class A asset to evacuees and I brought in 53 families of a brand new Class A asset. I think we were the only Class A asset even on the list.
Wow. Actually, I don’t think I’ve said this to anybody. At one point I almost left the industry because I had a predominantly white demographic at this particular asset and watching the interactions and the assumptions and the judgements was so hard and disheartening that it was the one time out of my whole career. I almost walked away because I was getting to me and watching them try to look for jobs and how they were going to get out, stay here for good. But what was that interview process? And just, luckily for me, I learned a lot in that process because people came back and they shared their experiences and it was very eye-opening to me.
Antoinette Williams: Absolutely.
Lissi Daniels: Yeah.
Elizabeth Francisco: Hopefully I’m a better person. I feel like I am because of it, but doesn’t mean I understand completely, but I think I got a really intimate detail about that, so much so that I did risk my job just so you all know I’m probably gonna get in trouble. So I do not, I don’t recommend anyone do this ever.
I had somebody just really upset about this perception of somebody they knew nothing about in their unit next to them and luckily for me, I approved all the applications. So I knew that two different credits. And I might have, again, I don’t recommend this, you will get fired. I went ahead and I had enough of this bigotry, this awful conversation. And so I went and got the two files because back then we had folder files. I don’t know if y’all ever saw those, but they’re big manilla envelopes. And I got both of them out and is this person’s going on and on, I knew that I had bent on their credit score, which is down in the five hundreds and the lovely couple that live next to them had an 820. I didn’t even have an 820 and as they were ranting and raving, that’s one of the things that, like I said, I had [00:16:00] I just opened them up and I looked, I was like, oh my gosh, your credit scores are 500 versus 820. I wonder how they’re gonna feel about living next to you. Yeah. And then I called my company and said, you’re gonna fire me. But I joke about, not to bring levity to it, but it was I saw it. And I was, I had no idea. It was like that. I really didn’t. I was sheltered, I guess I was oblivious.
Antoinette Williams: I think that what I’ve come to understand as a professional is that in America, especially there’s been a system built around ensuring that people believed those things about us. Especially in Hollywood, if you look in the thirties, forties, fifties we were drug dealers, we were Stepin Fetchit. We were mammies. We were Jezebels. And that was all they would show us as and as you go into the eighties and the crack epidemic, it was the “black drug epidemic.” And so if you’re in the dominant culture and you have power, even if your credit score is 500 something, you’re still above a black person with an 800 credit score because of the perception. And so as a professional in in this industry and just in America. I understand that when I walk into a room that I’m starting on the bottom and I have to prove myself my work has to speak for me and I have to speak for myself. And I speak the way that I speak because I’m from California. Not for any other reason, not because I’m trying to assimilate to anything else, but I understand that I’m going to have to work twice as hard to get half as far. I understand it because that’s the way that our system was set up.
Lissi Daniels: I was just going to echo, I can definitely agree with you on that, and you have to, work, like she said 10 times harder, but at the same time, you have to prove yourself. And they have to see that. So it’s not like we can just walk in and be like, “Hey, this is my resume.” No. No, it’s, “What is really your background? What is it that you really done? What has, what is it that you really achieved to be on that level?”
Antoinette Williams: And just to add to that, I think early in my career, I just wanted to prove myself and I just wanted to be good enough. [00:18:00] And so there were a lot of things that I did for no money. There were a lot of things that I did and I thought, “Man if they see how good I am, it’ll be fine.” So I was making $38,000 when I knew that other people in similar assets were not making that (little), and I just brushed it off and I moved forward. I kept my head down and I did the work and I proved it out. There were a lot of years of doing that type of thing knowing that I was worth more and now I feel like I’m established enough that my resume can speak for itself. But we’ve absolutely been put in those positions.
Elizabeth Francisco: We were talking about that perception and thinking about the weight. One of the things that I learned from a coworker and, she knows who she is, if she’s listening to this, I thank her for it because she continues to help educate me. And one of the things that she shed light on for me was this concept of, and she’s been in multifamily before she became part of our company for years, but it was this conscious decision to try and act white.
And I never really thought about it from her perspective and as she shaped it, and I don’t want to give away too much about where she’s from, but there are certain, like you said, maybe where you grow up, what the culture is, because it’s not like every black community has the same exact culture either. I would think it’s your family, it’s your community, it’s what’s unique to that region. And so that was her natural way of communicating and talking and actually it wasn’t makes her awesome, but she hid it. Like she consciously made this effort to think before she spoke or how she walked or what she wore or her nail color or her hair color.
And I wonder is that something that you guys have experienced yourselves as you were coming up or do you know other people that have shared that?
Lissi Daniels: I know I have experienced that because I speak very articulate. I’ve always got the, Oh, you’re articulate, oh, you sound proper.” Or “you’re not trying to be who you are.” And in reality, this is me. This is who I am. This is how [00:20:00] I was raised. And to go through those battles and try to say, “No, I’m just trying to pave a way of Lissi. This is what Lissi is all about” was very difficult because at the same time I was trying to make sure I’m mirrored a certain way to be able to fit in and fit in those molds. Because if not, then I will be looked upon as differently. And yeah, it’s very hard struggles. And even to this day, I’m dealing with that.
Elizabeth Francisco: You, that makes me think when Lissi, I think you were saying this about as you’re coming up through the ranks and having to navigate different situations, I guess if I imagine there’s gotta be a lot of weight to that, like it, and I say that just because we have a gentleman in our company, a black gentleman that shared with me and he’s phenomenal. But he said that he was showing me the weight. He said, “When I went to a different company out in California, when I walked up there and I saw I was literally the only person on the entire floor that looked like me, the thought that I had almost instantly was, I can’t screw this up because then people can’t follow me. I have to outperform.” And so thinking about your individual careers and your achievements, and I think about “Man, that’s gotta be exhausting. That weight of not only am I trying to find my own way, not only am I trying to face some adversity coming directly at me, you also feel the weight of having to represent a whole group of people?”
Antoinette Williams: Oh, a hundred percent. I’ve had a lot of behind closed door conversations with black and brown people, especially, about how we have to move in this space. We can’t do the things that other people do. We just don’t have that. We don’t have the space to do that. We don’t have the space to stand our ground in a certain way. Even if we want to argue a point and we know that we are right about a point, there’s a certain way that we have to interact. Whereas we, I have white counterparts who it seems they don’t have to think twice about it because some of the things that I’ve heard people say in this industry… there’s no way, there is [00:22:00] no way that I could, or a Hispanic person could say the same thing and be viewed as a professional. And be viewed as someone who could lead a a group of people. So it’s almost like we have to have spotless careers and we can’t be the people at NAA who are acting crazy drunk on the floor. We can not be that because it’ll follow us forever and ever and ever. And although there may be a funny story about somebody who did those things, they’re still excelling in their career. I can’t be confident that I would.
Lissi Daniels: No, definitely it’s like you always having double the work of watching yourself. And making sure you’re very mindful of everything you say in everything you do, because the fear of “what would they think, what would they just mark on you or against you?” and yeah, definitely challenging.
Elizabeth Francisco: No, it’s unfortunate and I’m sorry that you do have to carry that weight. Because that is a lot, but I also, too, I just want to compliment you both because I know I think your achievements are amazing, but I don’t know if you’re getting full credit for them because you have this extra challenge. It’s not like it ain’t hard enough to begin with! So having the extra challenge, I think, makes your achievements even that much more impressive.
Lissi Daniels: Thank you!
Elizabeth Francisco: You’re welcome. So I was going to say, I wanted to come back to this. Do you feel like black men and women in this space, do they have the same challenges or is it different? And you obviously can only speak from your perspective, from conversations or family that shares, but is it different?
Antoinette Williams: So I think culture and ethnicity play a big part to the answer to that question. So white men are treated vastly different than black women. And black men are also viewed and treated vastly different than black women. So in some cases, Black men have more of an advantage to excel. And in other cases and in other ways they have less of an advantage. They’re at a greater disadvantage and some of those ways are black men are still men. And so they walk into [00:24:00] a room with their masculinity and they have that going for them.
On the other hand, similar to what I was explaining earlier about the perception of black people, especially in America that has been portrayed in Hollywood and beyond in the media, is that black men are aggressive and black men are criminals and black men are not great fathers and black men are all these negative things.
And so there’s also that perspective, in our industry and beyond, of black men just not quite being good enough or being too aggressive. And in some ways I’d rather have a black woman who is perceived as softer than this angry black man who could just go off the rails at any moment. So I think we are treated differently. There are some advantages and some disadvantages to both.
Lissi Daniels: Yeah. But then I also felt like within that situation, even as black women, we have to still come a certain way and present ourself a certain way and not be aggressive and not sit there and voice our thoughts and our opinions, because then we are labeled the angry black woman. And that situation has its disadvantages in both ways. So how are we supposed to perceive ourselves and move?
Antoinette Williams: One of the disappointments to not having great representation is that If we had better representation and someone paving the way to say, “We can voice our opinions, we can do this, but here’s how we do it” and then skirt that misrepresentation or that misunderstanding of who we are because one of the reasons that I think that I have made it to where I am is by speaking up and having conversations and being able to articulate what my thoughts are and lay it out. But I have to go the extra mile to not be viewed as this angry black woman. When I’m passionate about something that I’m speaking about.
Lissi Daniels: Yeah. When you are speaking what you feel and what you love and it’s, we are very passionate and it does come back as you’re upset and you’re like, “No, I’m just passionate and that’s just who I [00:26:00] am.” And that’s the things that I wish it was just a change of that whole thought process of that.
Elizabeth Francisco: I agree with that. I don’t get accused of being an angry black woman, but I do get accused of being overemotional because I’m extremely passionate, too. I don’t think that would surprise anyone, but I also think it’s frustrating because I don’t think when our male counterparts always understand. By the time I’m coming off across emotional is because I’ve gotten there. It’s not like it happened just from this one incident. By the time we’re expressing our passion, the way that we are, we’re getting to that point. It’s because something’s gotten us to that point, and probably for me, at least I could say it builds when I’m not heard. And I’m even trying to do the right things by the company, or just in my past and maybe even on my ResMan journey. When you were passionate about doing the right thing, even for your company and something about you individually is being downplayed or pacified.. it’ s maddening. So I can’t imagine, but it’s very unfortunate.
Obviously we all have our LinkedIn networks and we know so many people in the industry, you don’t necessarily have to talk about companies or individuals or anything like that, but, is there anything that you would want to share with the audience about your own journey and if you faced the adversity that maybe has held you back directly in your career?
Antoinette Williams: I’ll say that I’ve definitely been blessed in my journey and I’ve been able to walk hand in hand with one or two allies from the time that I was a leasing consultant to my current position. So it was less about being discriminated or being held back from my career growth because I did move up pretty quickly. So I went from leasing to regional manager in about five years. So it’s not a typical journey. And I don’t think that the discrimination has held me back necessarily in that way, but I have had to figure out how to navigate some of the biases of my peers and other influential detractors.
And what we were just saying, trying to navigate being viewed as an angry black woman. It seemed like often in my career there would be at least one person who was singing my praises and another who was waiting for the opportunity to cut me down to size. [00:28:00] It’s ongoing. There will always be someone who’s singing your praises and always someone who just doesn’t get what’s so hot about you. I just don’t get it.
Elizabeth Francisco: I’m guessing with you, they were threatened. Something tells me you were out performing somebody. (laughter)
Antoinette Williams: And I am confident enough in that and I have been confident enough in that, in the latter part of my career. Not that I’ve been in the industry for 30 years, no, but probably the last half of my career, I’ve been far more confident in the fact that I know that I know what I’m doing and I know that I know how good I am at whatever it is I’m doing. So when I’ve had those people, it was more about them than it was about me and I just had to stay the course. But there was definitely a time where I was like, “What’s up with it? What is happening? What have I done?” But I get it. I see you.
So I I made a decision earlier, early on in my career that I was really just going to have to stand firm on my beliefs and work hard and address those people head on while trying not to be seen as that angry black woman. Now, I address those people head on and we might just have to go a little bit more toe-to-toe because I feel as Regional Vice President, I am in a better position to do those things then maybe as an assistant manager at a property. So yeah, absolutely.
Lissi Daniels: My journey I have experienced it and in that time, when I did experience being looked upon because I didn’t fit a certain persona of what they wanted, it really hurt me in my career. It was one of those pivotal moments where my love changed for our industry.
And at that time, I realized, I can either take this and grow with it and learn from it and not be stopped as far as my focus and my perseverance. And I did that and I always say two folds, right? Things always come back to situations like that. So then there was a light at the end of the tunnel of opening my eyes to that situation. So I feel like I have experienced that more when it came [00:30:00] to more of the corporate level and it’s been very challenging, but at the same time, it’s been very more I’m more motivated. Like I can do this and I belong here and I’m just as worthy as anyone next to me. So I think if I didn’t go through those challenges at the beginning of my career, I don’t think I would be able to sit here and talk about it. So I always felt like there’s always a great story behind everything that you learn and it’s still challenging every single day.
Antoinette Williams: Amen to that.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. And thank you for sharing your thoughts and your experience because hopefully we’ve got people in our audience who need to hear that right now.
Antoinette Williams: Can I just make a point real quick? So I think I just want to further explain the shame of it all, in our industry in particular, where it comes to diversity. So we’re in an industry where friends hire friends. So if your friend group doesn’t look like me…
Elizabeth Francisco: Most people hire people they’re comfortable with.
Antoinette Williams: And people hang out with people that they’re comfortable with culturally. So it’s more likely that we all have people in our friend groups who look like us, far fewer people will look like me than will look like you. And so one, we have fewer people who know about our industry, fewer diverse people who know about our industry and are brought into our industry. So we finally get some people into our industry and then they have to face these things.
Lissi Daniels: Exactly.
Antoinette Williams: Then it becomes like, “What’s the point?”
Lissi Daniels: Yeah. They don’t see that there’s another level. It goes back to the first question, the representation. And so I think it creates a (limited) circle where I’m thinking, ” If you just stop and just learn and just understand and go educate and just connect, you will learn so much more. And I think that will open the doors in so many different directions.
Elizabeth Francisco: That’s right. What can we do about that? Like how can we change that? Because this can be a great career, period, for anyone. You don’t have to necessarily have a college degree. It doesn’t matter where you came from. Where I lived, I was the only person who looked like me, everybody else was brown or black in my neighborhood. So seeing the differences and just thinking about the challenges they face from not having the same access to capital and financial means [00:32:00] to maybe they do great in high school, cause I know some people that were really strong in academics in high school, start college, but then they don’t finish college. That, sadly, was because they didn’t have access to the same financial means someone that looks like me would have, so we’re gonna come back to that one.
Because that also makes me think about what I call Antoinette’s “drop the mic moments.” We were talking about where does the responsibility lie for fostering an inclusive and an equitable environment. And Antoinette, you said something that really struck me. You said discrimination is not a problem for minorities to solve. It’s a very simple statement, but it’s a very powerful statement. And I never really heard it said quite like that. You were very passionate when you said that to me, I embraced it.
But you’re a hundred percent right. And that moment was not only a “drop the mic moment” in our conversation, it’s had an profound impact on me since then. Because it’s not the responsibility of oppressed people to solve the oppression, especially when they’re not the ones in control. They don’t have a seat at the table, they can’t solve this problem for themselves. So I was wondering if you guys wanted to take a minute to expand on that just a little bit.
Antoinette Williams: So BIPOC people… BIPOC means Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. So BIPOC people can share our experiences. But we can’t resolve the issues without the help of allies and without the help of allies in the dominant culture taking the lead to make the changes…
Say for instance, you have a black female leasing consultant who communicates that our property manager referred to her hair as a “nappy lion’s mane” and tells her that she looks unprofessional and she needs to go home and fix her hair. So now what? Now it’s the responsibility of the organization to resolve the situation and educate the broader employee base on why this is a problem and set the standard that this type of discrimination is unacceptable and has no place within the organization.
The one leasing [00:34:00] consultant herself cannot resolve this issue, right? So that’s just an example of someone who has been discriminated against not being able to solve the problem. And I use that specific example because it’s happened and it continues to happen in our industry and beyond. And no matter how many times we as black men and women share our experiences around how our hair is perceived in particular in the workplace, we can’t fix the issue without the support of our allies. So the Crown Act began as an initiative in 2019 in California to protect against race-based hairstyles and hairstyle discrimination in the workplace and schools.
So we have a little video that I’d like the audience to take a look at to further explain what the Crown Act is.
Elizabeth Francisco: Well, first off, thank you for sharing the Crown Act with me and I’ve signed the petition. I think that was a great way you can go and get involved and I’ve been learning a lot about the legislation and the different efforts in the different states. First of all, I just want to say thank you for introducing me to that. I literally had no idea when both of you shared with me that you have faced either personally or known someone directly that has had comments or even directives in this industry about how they can or can’t wear their hair. Just blew my mind.
Antoinette Williams: Oh, it’s so prevalent.
Elizabeth Francisco: I don’t even know what to say. To me, I’m just very disappointed about that. But we can bring awareness to it and we can hopefully help change that. Thinking about our individual roles in different association groups and national association groups and the diversity and inclusion committee at NAA, I think these are conversations to have and I’m sure they’re having those conversations, but maybe we can do more to help bring awareness to this because there’s a lot of things nobody should have to face too. I mean talk about, that’s just who you are, it’s your natural look.
Antoinette Williams: Right, it’s the way that my hair grows out on my head…
Elizabeth Francisco: It’s like asking me to be six feet tall.
Lissi Daniels: That’s right. (laughter)
Antoinette Williams: It’s [00:36:00] like, why do you even care what my hair looks like? If I choose to wear it in braids, which is a generations-old tradition and one of few that was brought from Africa to America. It’s just absurd that it’s even a conversation.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah, I completely agree. I still was shocked about that. And then I thought, there’s many great videos on this website, kids not being allowed in school. There’s another one that shows this little girl,, her and her father are going up and they both have braids. The teacher doesn’t allow them to come in because it violates the school’s hair policy. She’s five or six years old. What kind of messages that send that poor little girl? And her values?
So God bless you for sharing it with me. I was going to say too, that there is a legislative effort that has been going on since 2018. So can you tell us a little bit about that?
Antoinette Williams: Yeah, absolutely. 14 states have adapted this as law. And many other local jurisdictions in 14 additional states have also adapted it as law. So we’re making some headway. We’re not there yet. If you add that up, that’s only 28 places that have started to move in the right direction. It’s better than nothing, but this is how we move the needle to make the change. We have to do it through legislation in some cases, which again, it’s unfortunate, but I’m glad that we are making some headway.
Elizabeth Francisco: And the, one of the things I learned from understanding the maps where legislation is active, we’re in Texas but I’ve been in Florida, both of those states right now have legislation pending. I know at least in Texas, it’s in the Senate, it timed out. But this is a time to go be heard. So if you’re listening to us right now, this is a great opportunity to get involved in those petitions, but also to make your voice heard to your local legislators, this is a, no-brainer like, let’s just get this passed.
And thank you. First of all, most thank you for being so open and transparent and sharing with me and the audience. It’s important, like I said, the more we understand the more we can help do. But now I want to switch a little bit more to talking about what solutions look like. I’m a champion of our EEC committee and our DEI initiatives, but we’ve had some missteps along the [00:38:00] way.
I find it disappointing we have fallen short. The intention is there, genuinely, it is. But that part’s been hard for me to understand what we need to do. And I think, remember what we were talking about your “drop the mic moment” and where does the responsibility really lie… I think one of the things I’ve learned that the expectations of leaning on the people who have suffered these discrimination and biases and have been oppressed… leaning on them to help solve the problem, it’s not their problem to solve.
But then I also on the flip side though, it’s hard because I also don’t have all the answers. So understanding how to navigate that situation, I’d be open and interested in hearing what kinds of policies or practices or behaviors have you maybe seen in your current companies or even a company that’s really hitting it out of the park? Some of us are in progress, we’re a work-in-progress to be more inclusive and have more equity.
Antoinette Williams: So everything started last year. June 2020 was a pivotal year in our country. And all of these things were happening and had been happening for several months and it was leading up to this this point, it was a boiling point where companies all over the country just realized we need to do something. We don’t know what we need to do, but we need to do something. And I don’t think that my leadership will be upset with me saying because they’re very forward-thinking but I had not heard anything from anybody in my organization around what was happening. It felt like there was no consideration that I, as a black woman and mother and wife of a black man, could potentially be suffering and not just me, but many people in my organization. So I sent an email to a couple of leaders in my organization and I received some very honest feedback, said, “We knew that we needed to do something, but we just didn’t know what to do. So we didn’t do anything at all. And we’re so glad that you reached out because we didn’t know how to move forward.” And so that kind of started conversations and we developed our diversity and inclusion council. [00:40:00] What that did the first year that we had the council was bring different voices to the table.
So I think that’s the first thing is if your leadership group is not very diverse and y’all are the only ones making decisions and listening to each other talk, you’re probably not doing it. And so first, bring more voices to the table.
We were also really trying to figure out: what’s the purpose of this DEI council? What are we doing? We spent a lot of time building our mission. We did ensure that our language is the same. Every year at the beginning of our session, we start our new DEIcouncil year in November so with every new council, we ensure that we understand what we’re talking about. What microaggressions are, what implicit explicit biases, what allyship is… we talk about a lot of D&I topics to ensure that everybody knows what the issues are and as we’re having these discussions, you know what they mean.
It was very sweet. I was discussing what microaggressions are with my new counsel. Someone pulled me aside afterward and said, “I’ve always told you that you’re articulate, but I never meant it in any kind of way.” And I said “I know that you didn’t, but that’s a part of learning and growing. And so just because you didn’t mean to doesn’t mean that it didn’t affect, but that’s a part of learning and growing.”
So I think understanding even what the language is, what the issues are and talking about it… if you don’t talk about it, it will never be resolved. And something that I’m really proud of that we’re doing this year… We’ve got three big goals for this year. One is to understand and assess our hiring practices. We’ve been really good about hiring great people, but from pretty much the same types of places. My company is based in Atlanta where we have HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities, so if we’re not even seeking talent from the Mecca of diversity, what are we doing? We have since become an approved employer with Moorehouse College and we’ll be able to recruit there, in [00:42:00] addition to where we’ve recruited for many years at UGA. So we’re hoping to assess our our hiring practices.
We also want to understand our company’s diversity. It’s really easy for companies or for leaders to stand on their ivory tower and go, “Yeah, no, it looks pretty diverse.” But where’s your diversity? What level? What level is your diversity? How diverse are you? What’s the ratio of men to women? How many black people do you have? How many people do you have that identify as LGBTQ? How many people are biracial? And I identify as biracial, they don’t identify as black or whatever else they are. So we have a goal to understand our diversity better.
And the third goal that we have this year is to implement leadership diversity training. We’ve done a really good job at training our on-site employees. Because they engage with our customers so frequently and what we found is that we have left our leadership group out. They need to be educated as well, if not even more. That is what our DEI council has done at least within CARROLL.
Lissi Daniels: On the flip side of that, you have those companies that are still at the beginning stages, trying to implement diversity and inclusion and program into their company. With that, I believe it does start with those conversations and learning. It could be myself, but it also could be someone who’s willing to be open-minded and willing to have that change and it does start with those leaders. And I think, if that voice is my voice or if that’s another voice, that’s what’s going to make those changes. But there’s a lot of companies out there that are not at that level and not ready to have those conversations, because like you said, they look at it as “Everything looks good. So why do we need to make a change?” And in reality, that’s where we do need to make changes.
Elizabeth Francisco: Absolutely agree. If I think back to some of our challenges, do you think that an effective the EEI council or committee, can it be led by somebody who’s [00:44:00] not in those minorities?
Antoinette Williams: I think it can be… so one of the other executive sponsors who was with our company for a long time and has taken a new role was not a minority. But she led the charge and she did a lot of self-education on diversity, equity and inclusion. So I think that absolutely. It is possible, but I do think that it’s important for people who are diverse to take those leadership roles and lead. Because I think the perception can be, here we go again, just another, whatever it may be leading this group.
Elizabeth Francisco: It’s a checkbox group.
Antoinette Williams: It’s a checkbox group.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. And that kinda leads me to my other question. So I know one of the things that we saw in our own group, I’m still struggling to understand this, but the participation… it seemed like we struggled to hear what we needed to hear. It felt like everything was trying to keep the conversation going. It felt like everything was my idea, but I’m not the one that should… I don’t have all the answers. I’m not even sure if I have the answer. I don’t know if you’ve ever been part of a group that’s had that challenge on.
So many of these groups are, newly formed. It was interesting because. A lot of engagement in our employee engagement committee, but then when we broke this out, it was volunteer only. And I know you don’t know if there’s a different type of commitment, getting people consistently to be at the meetings.
Also understanding what change would look like, we tried to have what a realistic agenda items. We don’t want to over promise and under deliver, which I feel like we did anyway. Structuring it to get that buy-in, do you see that struggle or when it was first starting or in a company that’s starting it now, did you see any of that?
Lissi Daniels: As our company, now, it hasn’t even hit the peak of that yet. So we haven’t even had the conversations to say, “Hey, let’s have these conversations.” We’re very ground level, it still needs those conversations. And so I really couldn’t attest to that on that end, more or less. Antoinette may be able to, but I would hope that if we [00:46:00] do have those conversations and start to have that buy in, that we make it very informative to where people are comfortable enough to say, I want to be a part of this. I want to learn more about this. I want to make that change as well.
Antoinette Williams: Yeah, so we made a commitment to not have too large a DEI council. In our first year, I think we had 98 people, which I thought was amazing, apply. And we only accepted 17. And so we really went through all the applications, that were very thoughtful applications, and we ensure that we had a very diverse council. We had representation from different age groups. I think we had from about 25 to 65 years old, we had black, white, Hispanic, Asian. We had LGBTQ, we had some of everybody. We had different positions. So we had maintenance technicians. We had maintenance supervisors all the way up to regional managers at the time.
And now our VP of Operations is on the council. But so one week we kept it on the smaller side. So it was a little bit easier to manage and two, we realized that not everybody would be able to make all of the meetings. Once a month is the commitment for the meetings. But we kept them engaged. The people who were not selected to be on the council were selected as ambassadors or asked if they wanted to be ambassadors. So we kept the engagement through email. We would always update the people who couldn’t make it to the meeting via email. And then we would reach out to our ambassadors to help to continue whatever initiative or effort it was. So we’ve had really good engagement.
This year, we have implemented sub committees. So we have an outreach committee, we have an education committee, and we have a planning committee and it’s really just the people who are on the council who are running it all. They get together one additional time per month. Then they put our meetings together. They determine what our initiatives should be and we also talk to our executive leadership to ensure that the company’s goals aligned with the council’s goals. [00:48:00] So I feel like we are still a fledgling council, but we’ve made some really good headway.
Elizabeth Francisco: No, and what I’m thinking about too is we have another podcast episode where we’re talking about retention and some of the challenges right now with The Great Resignation and, on the surface, it seems very monetarily driven, but I really don’t believe that is all that it is. I think there’s a lot more and people want to feel valued. As companies are out there thinking about how they can invest and provide different opportunities for their employees beyond their normal role, right? Beyond that role… there’s a value to experiences and growing your career and being in a group like what you guys have done, which I think is fantastic.
What an opportunity to, for them to have visibility in the company, for them to learn from one another, to think about strategy. That may be, if you’re looking to start your fledgling DEI council or committee, I think those were some great suggestions and that’s the kind of thing I think employees right now, if they’re on the fence because, look what’s happening they see the news, it’s constantly in the news, they’ve gotta be thinking, “Wow, am I the crazy one from sticking around?”
So this could be a really good way to get, to ensure their engagement and retention.
Antoinette Williams: A hundred percent. Yeah.
Elizabeth Francisco: That was a great, great suggestions. So I think too, if we think about from executive leadership, what do you think a good, an effective, not good, but an effective executive champion? Or I don’t know if champions is the right word, hopefully we’re all champions, but what is the effective executive leader look like that helps move their company forward?
Antoinette Williams: They drive conversations. So they don’t hide from the conversations. I genuinely have to say I’m blessed with a great leader. My COO, David Perez, is just very open-minded. He wants to learn and he wants to ensure that we’re doing the right things for our people. And so I’ve been fortunate to be in a position where I can have those conversations. I can present those conversations to him and it’s not just him checking a box. He listens to what you have to say so [00:50:00] you can move on. He genuinely soaks it up and he wants to know more and he wants to know how we can utilize whatever initiative I’ve come up with or whatever we can do to make our company stronger as a whole. So I think, and I think that he agrees, I know that he agrees that this DEI council is not just an initiative. It’s a part of the fabric of our culture and it has to be. It’s interwoven in everything that we do. And we’ve just hired an ESG manager. Environmental, social and governance is huge right now. Our partners are asking about it. Other companies are doing it. It’s just the thing that we have someone who’s–
Elizabeth Francisco: And apparently it’s coming down the pipe that it’s becoming a requirement, more and more lenders are looking to see that when you refinance or if you’re going to purchase a property.
Antoinette Williams: Yep. That’s right. So we have someone who’s solely focused on that. And so the S part of ESG is, we do a lot of social things, but one of them is the D&I council. It’s just a part of who we are as an organization. I would say that executive who is open to having conversations and open to changing things and just trying new things out.
Lissi Daniels: Everything, every day is evolving and I think in companies they’re always evolving for change. I think going back to what I said earlier is it starts with one voice. You have companies who are like Antoinette’s company that are very progressive, where they’re at now. Then you have companies who are not there quite yet, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be there quite yet. It does just take those conversations and implementing those ideas and having that executive leadership that’s going to want to listen with that open mind and be willing for change. I also know, it’s a process. It’s something that doesn’t happen overnight.
Elizabeth Francisco: Fair point.
Lissi Daniels: With that, there’s always a beginning to be able to get to that end.
Elizabeth Francisco: That’s right. That’s a great point. And I imagine sometimes it’s hard to get that conversation started because we’re like “Everything’s going fine.” Well, maybe for you. I was thinking about that because, we had our own [00:52:00] conversations, I’m in a tech space, which does not have the diversity you might expect, and thinking about how we would tackle this and basically you’ve got to take a look in the mirror. I’ll just say what it is. You have to be willing to take the look in the mirror. I’m a big believer in the surveys. I think sometimes people who don’t see the problem early, they don’t see it cause they don’t understand it and, some, who don’t see it because they don’t want to see it. I have learned over the course of my career, data says a lot. For those companies out that they’re looking at starting something, another good way to maybe get that conversation going is to really think about how you’re going to do your annual surveys for your company.
We love Gallup at ResMan. We use it a lot. But when you are surveying your employees, you can design questions to reinforce what you think or you can be bold and go out there and really put questions out there that may have some answers that you don’t like. And the data points you can look at… you can look about just the diversity, in general. Not that that should be the only requirement because everyone I know who’s passionate and wants to be heard and wants to have a voice doesn’t want to be given anything either. But it is important to understand what the diversity looks like in your company, but not just your company, also the levels. There’s definitely diversity out amongst our frontline teams, but then as you go up, it changes same thing. And a lot of our tech companies and a lot of other companies out there… how do you use that data?
If you’re seeing that you have this lack of diversity, as you continue up in your, let’s say your middle management, I think the conversation has to go around to why is that? Look in the mirror and ask yourself, have we really invested? And maybe it goes back to some of this unconscious bias. Are we investing in our employees that are marginally represented or minorities? Do we invest in them the same way? Do we give them the same coaching opportunities? Do we respond to their mistakes the same way? And I think that’s the key, if you have tenured employees, but they’re not moving up at the same rate as their white counterparts? Hopefully, that’s a really good place for us to have a real conversation internally. And I can tell you for us, [00:54:00] we started to see that and we were looking at it and whether it’s age or gender or whatever, we looked at those, but we had to ask the questions, too. So I think those are really important.
Antoinette Williams: Absolutely. When you said that, it just reminded me that, a lot of those people aren’t a “culture fit.” That’s why they’re not moving up. That’s what we tell ourselves or some people tell themselves. ” We tried to train them. We tried to help them, but they just weren’t a culture fit” and they had to move on. So these tenured employees who have worked so hard as an assistant manager or property manager, they can never make it to that next level because of the cultural misunderstandings and misrepresentations.
Elizabeth Francisco: In my past and even in my way back past, when we have wanted to utilize surveys to ask tough questions about ourselves, because you can’t bury your head in the sand and really for an organization to be at its best, you need everyone to be at their best, you need to provide that opportunity. I’ve heard from people in the industry, sometimes there’s pushback from the very top leadership. Sometimes it’s as simple as fear. “We want to do this. It’s coming up. We don’t have time to think through this. So we’re going to put this off until next year.”
I would say to those of you that want to advocate for this and maybe take another look, you already should be surveying your employees, just like you should be surveying your residents, by the way, but maybe remind the rest of your peers that it’s really not their place to put it off because they’re not the ones living the experience. Be open and transparent. We’ve made some mistakes, but we also came back out to our company publicly and said on our company stand-up, “Look, this was a mistake. Our intentions were good. We understand this came across tone deaf. We need to grow from it. We are going to own this, but we’re learning and we’re going to not make that mistake again.” So what can companies do to avoid having the execution take them two steps back because it comes off tone deaf.
Antoinette Williams: I think ensure that you are talking to the right people. If you don’t have the right people within your organization, seek peers who are outside of your organization, who you can consult with to ensure [00:56:00] that they’re double-checking the work,
Lissi Daniels: Definitely.
Antoinette Williams: That’s right. What do you think?
Lissi Daniels: Definitely make sure you have someone that’s on that team that is going to help you not go back two steps and is going to be able to give you the right guidance and direction on that and go from there.
Elizabeth Francisco: There’s another podcast that I’ve been listening to trying to educate myself. It’s called the inclusion, the element of inclusion podcast with Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey. I wrote down from one of his podcasts that said, “Employee resource groups are like websites in the year 2000. Everyone thinks they know what they are but very few of them are using them correctly.” And it made me wonder, for other infinity groups and not that we necessarily represent them all here in this room today, but have you participated, do you have those in your companies?
Antoinette Williams: We don’t. I had never heard of employee resource groups or affinity groups or any of these types of things because I’ve been in multifamily for a long time.
Elizabeth Francisco: We’re a little late to the game.
Antoinette Williams: We’re a little late to the game. I have a very good friend who is in the tech space and when we were talking through some of our workplace challenges she told me that in her organization, they have an ERG called BEAMs, black employees and mentors is what the acronym stands for. She said, ” Maybe you can suggest that you all have something similar to this BEAMs group.” So this was our very first ERG and that’s how it was developed, but no we don’t have any other ERG. I presume that at some point in the future, especially as we grow.. We’re at about an 800 or so employees, it will make sense to have more specified ERG, but we don’t have any,
Elizabeth Francisco: We’re talking about solutions and getting involved and thinking about representation. I think one of the things I would think about if I was a property manager today, is how do I get more of my team members visible in the affiliates, the local affiliates, state affiliates, and the national level? I know there’s a sincere [00:58:00] desire by our national trade associations to continue to move the industry forward in this regard. But if you attend events, we’ve got long way to go, right? And this is not the trade show events, I’m talking our larger committee meetings, the boards, different things like that in the industry.
So maybe one of the things is think about investing in our frontline team members that are marginally representative minorities or people of color and fund them to go to these things, help them become part of the solution because it keeps it in here talking. It keeps coming back to: Will we have the right people in the room to help lead that conversation?
I can tell you there’s a few that are but they are leaned on heavily by everyone else as I keep seeing that. So maybe a great starting point for us would be… You’re members of the associations, if you’re using any of their forms, you better be. You’re paying for that membership… utilize that because you never know who you’re standing next to. You never know who you can influence through your conversations and just by people getting to know each other that later becomes an advocate that maybe wasn’t in the beginning. It’s really a minimal investment to have your team take off, go sit in and what a great education about the industry to be involved.
But I tend to focus more at the national level these days. We have teams that go to the local events. Maybe you guys can speak to that, but it makes me wonder if I go back to 20 years ago when I went to some of my first local affiliate meetings, is it changing? Does what I see in my level still resonate down below for the most part?
Antoinette Williams: Yeah.
Lissi Daniels: We still have some room to grow. Being on our local affiliate level and being heavily involved and seeing it, definitely some room to grow. I definitely can see they’re trying, but I do feel like there’s got to be more. There has to be more that can be done because I look at it like this: when you have a lot of teams, even team members you’re sending to these events and you see [01:00:00] who’s representing again and these conferences and these committee meetings or just board meetings, all of that. They’re going to look at that and they’re going to say, “Why do I want to be a part of that? Why should I have an interest of that? Because I’m not going to gain anything from that.” How is that going to impact me as someone being black or brown? And in that level is where I think we’re aiming for but we have a long haul.
Antoinette Williams: I keep talking about how a lot of people are aging out of the industry. There’s a lot of people who’ve been in the industry a long time and they don’t want to be in the industry too much longer because the time is coming. We are getting to a point where people really aren’t falling into this industry anymore. It’s less and less of “I don’t know how I got into it. I just wound up here.” The younger generation is very focused on what they want to do and where they want to go so we need to be recruiting and grooming like crazy. One of the ways to keep people engaged is to support them and ensure they’re going to these apartment association events and even higher. I would love to see a world where leasing consultants could go to the statewide education conference. I know it’s a financial strain, but those are the things that we have to be focused on and conscious of is recruiting on a more diverse level and being focused on that.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah, I think you just reminded me of something, but it’s not that much of an expense. So let’s be honest, we did have good rent growth last year. We didn’t take the hit the rest of the other industries did. There is going to be cashflow this next coming year. So I think the expense is nominal. Luckily I was being hired at a high enough level position where I could fight for it within the company. But I had to convince the investors. We did carve out money and we took our managers and regionals to the state and national event. I looked at it as an investment in their education. And I think I shared with you, my entire team was diverse back 11 years ago.
That’s where I really started to realize, the real problem we have. I started to see how they interacted and how their body language [01:02:00] would change and how they would be really comfortable back at home. But when we got out into the world, they’d cling together more and they were pretty confident, I don’t wanna take too much away from them cause they go boldly. But I can tell you what I saw from the investment that we put into them, the number one, they start to understand the breadth of this industry and what’s possible. There’s education there to help them grow. We benefit from all of that as business owners and when you talk about leasing agents, you may not be able to afford to send every single leasing agent, but you can run some leasing contests and renewal contests… you can do some NOI contests where whoever’s contributing the most, basically effectively pays their way by achieving this and they can go open up, go have that experience. I think based on what we’ve talked about today, I think what I would do different now is start by having the conversation and not have them be surprised that they’re going to walk in there and say, “Oh my gosh, there’s nobody here that looks like me. There’s very few people that look like me.” Because you’re right, I can understand well, why? It’s not their problem to solve, but this goes back to the two sides of the coin, which is hard because if we can bring more and more diversity into our associations, we can help make that change. We can have, a minority is chairman or chairwoman of NAA.
Antoinette Williams: And you’re a hundred percent right. The value far outweighs the expense.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yup. I would argue we tend to look at our assets and multifamily as the buildings themselves, but I would argue our people are the greatest asset. You lose sleep at night worrying about the big asset. That’s brick and mortar. You shouldn’t lose sleep about your other asset, which is your people.
And third, I would argue that your technology should be an asset. Stop thinking of it as an expense, as an asset, you need to invest in it.
All right, ladies. Wow. Our time is up. It went by so fast. So I look forward to continuing the conversation and by God, one of these days, we’re going to talk about imposter syndrome. Yes, because we keep running out of time for imposter syndrome [01:04:00] and, that’s one of my favorite topics. We’re just going to come back together for just one, dedicate the whole hour to imposter syndrome.
But I look forward, I really do, I hope both of you will come back and join me and let’s talk and show them what we know about running this business, pave the way for everyone behind us. With that said thank you again, you’ve been fantastic guests. I hope the audience really enjoyed the conversation and really appreciate the transparency because that’s brave, too. So thank you for that.
We hope you enjoyed this episode and that you will join us again next time. Be sure to subscribe to PropTalk on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts from. To learn more about ResMan’s property management platform and to get more insight into the multifamily ecosystem, visit myresman.com.
ResMan’s Affordable Compliance experts, Rue Fox and Janel Ganim, are back with a delicious cocktail to honor New Year’s and Valentine’s Day along with PropTalk’s latest episode of Cocktails & Compliance! Pop the champagne with Rue and Janel and hear all of the Winter updates on the Affordable housing industry. Hear everything from updates about TRACS 203-A and the CARH conference as well as the status of electronic signature adoption and upcoming events right here on PropTalk!
Follow along here:
Rue Fox: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Rue
Janel Ganim: Hi, I’m Janel. Welcome to Episode 4 of Cocktails & Compliance. We are so excited to be here as you can probably see from our setup here. So since we’ve last talked or recorded an episode, we’ve been through some holidays. And so at this point, we’re going to say cheers to the new year.
Oh, oh, such a good noise
Rue Fox: Happiest sound on earth.
Janel Ganim: So cheers to the New Year!
Rue Fox: Cheers to the New Year!
Janel Ganim: And also because it’s almost Valentine’s day Rue spent some time this morning, making chocolate covered strawberries for us. So we kind of have a pink theme going on here. We’ve got bubbles and chocolate covered strawberries because you know, it’s delicious.
Rue Fox: Oh, all right, so let’s get this started here.
Janel Ganim: Absolutely. Cheers, Rue.
Rue Fox: Cheers. Janel!
Janel Ganim: You hear the clink? It was like a little baby clink.
Rue Fox: It can’t “clink” very hard.
Janel Ganim: It can’t clink very hard. Yeah, do it again. Cheers again.
Rue Fox: Cheers.
Janel Ganim: Oh, that’s my favorite.
Rue Fox: Oh, so good. My favorite, too. Okay. All right. So for today’s cocktail, we are having…
Janel Ganim: Some bubbles. So we have lots to cover today. We’re ready to just jump in and get started. But I am going to say you are going to want to hang out with us the entire time, because we have a very big announcement.
Rue Fox: Ooh. It’s so much fun.
Janel Ganim: Good stuff. So excited. So we’re going to dive right in. And what do we always talk about first?
Rue Fox: Ooh, TRACS 203-A. We might as well have a drink cause we know it’s not coming any time soon.
Janel Ganim: Cheers to that. So the update is there’s no update as is our typical update on TRACS 203-A. So I think in the [00:02:00] last episode that we were starting to see some movement, we were starting to hear a little buzz. The HUD staff had said at NAHMA, ” Hey,, we’re ready!” We’re like, “Whoa, you forgot to tell everybody else.” so we were thinking there was going to be a working group call in January and we were going to start moving forward. We waited, waited. Didn’t happen.
Rue Fox: Now it’s February. We still don’t have one on the calendar.
Janel Ganim: We still do not have one on the calendar. So what I have. From my industry, colleagues is we are at the point where all of the form changes have to go to OMB (the office of management and budget)
Rue Fox: How many times is that? Like the 9,000th time or something?
Janel Ganim: Something like that. I don’t know. So the forms have to be approved and they go out, there is a comment period. There is a review period. That’s a good three months right there. Minimum, and then we’ll look at finalizing a spec and moving forward. So if I were going to make predictions, I would say 2030 possibly. Right? (laughter) I caught you off guard. I had to think about it. I was like maybe, maybe if I had to make predictions. It won’t come out to be implemented to the industry this year. Now, maybe at the tail end of the year, if some of all the magic puzzle pieces fall into place, could the software vendors get started on something? Yeah, maybe, but at this point: Will it implement this year? Not a snowball’s chance. My prediction.
Rue Fox: I got a thought on that, too. If anybody that’s listening out there, if you hit our LinkedIn page: If you are currently working on RAD (rental assistance demonstration) conversions, why don’t you just ping us and let us know. We’re just curious to see how many RAD conversions are really going on out there. I’m not hearing about many but just curious to see what what’s really happening out there. Cause it’s been a minute since we’ve all been face-to-face and been able to network.
Janel Ganim: It has been, and I’m glad you brought that up Rue because [00:04:00] really that’s really where I have a heart for all of those people that are doing RAD conversions, because so much of this 203-A update is to make some tweaks to the technical side of how all of that information gets transmitted to tracks and how things happen in your software. And so I, I know that they’re dealing with work arounds and they’re, they’re managing those contracts.
Rue Fox: The first-year boundaries are tough.
Janel Ganim: Yeah.
Rue Fox: But I haven’t encountered a whole lot of that in conversation. And so I’m just kind of curious to see what’s really happening out there in the space, you know, just to learn a little bit about what’s really happening rather than what we think is happening. So hit us up on LinkedIn if if you are doing that.
CARH Mid-Year Meeting, Legislation Updates, and Election Season
Janel Ganim: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Moving on. So speaking of being able to get back out and, and go and see people, Rue and I just came back from a conference. We went to the CARH mid-year conference, right. They call us this one their mid-year.
Rue Fox: This is their mid-year, yes.
Janel Ganim: Yeah. So CARH is the council for affordable rural housing, they meet twice a year. January is always, I’m not going to lie, a fabulous location. And June is always in DC every year. So this year… did not disappoint. Oh my. So first of all, San Diego, one of our favorite cities to beautiful, but, Rue and I talked about this. We’ve been to so many conferences and for some reason we have danced all around this location, but props to the CARH staff, it was at the hotel Del Coronado, gorgeous venue. Wonderful!
Rue Fox: Very old, hollywood elegance glamour. Fabulous. So if you’ve never been, you should go,
Janel Ganim: You should, even if it’s vacation, if you get to land a work trip there the main conference area where we had a lot of our general sessions and where our [00:06:00] trade show which is basically just tables are around the room. As Rue said earlier, go check out our LinkedIn pages. We posted pictures. Best trade show view ever. It’s around ballroom windows all the way around ocean views. So I’m not gonna lie. It didn’t suck at all.
Rue Fox: No, it did not.
Janel Ganim: It was, it was fantastic. So but beyond that wonderful view,
Rue Fox: What did we really talk about? (laughter)
Janel Ganim: So some of us paid attention, some of us just looked at the water.
Rue Fox: Some of us stayed at the booth.
Janel Ganim: We like to divide and conquer. I get to go take notes so I can come back and share some things with you and Rue is at the booth. And does a wonderful job of that in talking to people because they tend to come by at all times throughout the day to chat. So having said that there was some really great content, and I think one of the sessions that really stuck out the most was the news from Washington. So what’s going on in the political environment that impacts housing and impacts the CARH members. So there was a lot of talk about what’s going on. One of the speakers made a comment, you know, that the House and the Senate are split, just like we see a lot throughout the rest of the country. And they were talking about the continuing resolution that was extended in December. It is up in February on the 18th. It may get extended again. But no, one’s really sure how it’s going to go because there’s… I don’t know, I want to say there’s a lot happening, but not a lot getting done is really my, my takeaway that there’s a lot of talk, but really the general consensus is that extending this continuing resolution is better than a government shutdown.
Which means, you know, we’ll at least continue to get funded at our, at our current rates. But one of the things that was brought up is this could cause issues for Section 8 contract renewal. HUD is actually moving to PDF and moving to mobile notaries to get signatures on [00:08:00] these, but they’re not all back in office yet. And actually one of the things that’s interesting too, with trying to get things done with the House and the Senate is they’re not always in their offices either, so there’s still a lot of work from home. So it was interesting to hear that the government is going through the same things that we hear. Our industry staff is going through the, how do I manage this from a remote location?
Rue Fox: I don’t know. Electronic signatures.
Janel Ganim: I dunno. How about that? So, Right. So it’s interesting to hear that head is moving to that for contract renewals, but if you have a renewal coming up make sure you’re in contact with your PBCA and make sure you’re staying on top of that. And encourage them, you know, they did allow electronic signatures for a lot of things, and it sounds like contract renewals is seeing more adoption because people are still working remotely.
So the other thing that was a big topic of conversation was the Build Back Better program.. So this spending bill was originally 3 trillion with a T– trillion. Right. And if you’ve been playing along at home and following along with the news, the House passed it, but at a 2.2 trillion with the amount, but what the Speaker was saying is that the Senate can’t get together 60 votes to get it through. So what does it mean for housing? It was really the question on everybody’s mind at this conference and you know, how do owners and agents get support for funding?
So, one thing of note is that several retirements have been announced in both the house which means it’s time to educate new members. So people that have been champions of housing are now moving on. And so it’s making sure to have those conversations with your representatives in DC and, and really what I hear works best is those grassroot efforts. You’re talking to your representative, you’re Senator explaining to them what’s going on in their district or their area of representation, how this impacts their constituents. That’s really a good way to get their attention for sure.
Rue Fox: Maybe they should just tell them to stop fighting amongst themselves and pay attention to the things that are really important. Like [00:10:00] housing. (laughter)
Janel Ganim: Could be, they did say that the Democrats are pushing forward funding provisions for housing. And so continue to thank the people that are moving housing forward, but really to keep talking to both parties about housing, like I said, they stress quite a bit. We need new champions on the Hill for housing and that really works best with owners and operators going to their representatives and talking about the impact.
Rue Fox: And I know that that sounds like that’s climbing a big mountain to be able to do that. But what I have learned is, is they do make themselves accessible and most, especially when they’re back in their home offices, rather than being in DC, make an effort to reach out to them and have conversations and convey your concerns and the things that it really does mean when these things don’t take place.
Janel Ganim: Yeah and Rue, that’s an excellent point. And I think we’ve heard that at one other conferences as well, you know, with people working remotely and people being back in their districts quite a bit, and you know, we talk about this with, with CARH and with NAHMA there is that time to go up on the Hill and go meet with your Congress people and senators. If you’re not going to those conferences in person you’re not in DC, then try to catch them when they’re in their local offices back in their district. For sure.
Emergency Rental Assistance Plan (ERAP)
Janel Ganim: There was also some continuing conversation on emergency rental assistance plan (ERAP). So we talked about this in a previous episode that there was a lot of talk about this program and distributing those funds out to states and some states were better able to move forward with these programs and get the funds distributed to the right people. Other jurisdictions weren’t as equipped to take on a new program and work through all of the pieces to execute this. And so there is still a conversation about recapturing those funds from those districts that have not spent this money and [00:12:00] redistributing those two districts that have been a little bit more effective.
Rue Fox: I mean, that’s kind of a hard argument not to have, right. If they’re going to use the money for what it’s out there for, and by all means, let them have some money.
Janel Ganim: Yeah. And it’s not entirely fair for people in those areas where it wasn’t efficient.
Rue Fox: No.
Janel Ganim: But the money needs to be spent.
Rue Fox: It does. It’s sitting there doing nothing right now when it could be helping people who absolutely qualify for it and need it.
Janel Ganim: Agreed. So they wrapped up this session with kind of a, if you had a crystal ball, what’s your prediction of what’s going to happen this year from a legislative perspective. And so one big question, and we’ve talked about this as we wait for a final rule on the average income test with the IRS, you know, it had been suggested, well, they need to hurry up because there’s a new tax bill coming. So that was one of the questions from the audience is will there be a new tax bill this year?
And their response is “Work is being done towards it.” But do you know what season we’re in now, election season? So that tends to impact how much work gets done because the focus tends to be on getting reelected. So all that to say the prediction was we won’t get a tax bill this year. On the bright side, maybe that means the IRS can stay focused on finishing the final rule for average income tests, because they won’t be distracted with this new tax bill. So silver lining,
And then there was also a, “Hey, what do you think is going to happen with the build back better program?” And what they predicted is it will move forward in pieces. So that ginormous spending amount that’s in it will likely get chunked up and just pass it in little bits, so that changed. I’ll be very curious to see if those predictions come true.
Rue Fox: Yeah, I will too. It’s going to be a very interesting year on that.
Janel Ganim: Yeah. So the other thing that was really important at the CARH meeting was going to the management committee and listening [00:14:00] to the owner agents and what’s going on. What other challenges do they have on staff? Because we know, especially for us, that’s where most of our customers fall. They’re developers, but they’re manager c ompanies as well, so
Rue Fox: Here, cheers to them, because boy oh boy, man, has it been hard for them. These last couple of years have been rough. We celebrate you guys for sure.
Janel Ganim: So there wasn’t as much talk about evictions, which was interesting. Cause we’ve talked about eviction moratorium for quite some time, but there was talk about tenant rent payments, and they’re still seeing instances where tenants think that it’s been rent forgiveness, not just a delaying of paying those rent payments. And so they’re either seeing tenants that haven’t paid rent or have short paid their rent for the last one to one and a half years. So they are bracing for higher legal fees for evictions. When that day comes and we’ve talked about this in the past too, with that also comes higher maintenance fees to turn those units. And then you’ve got the leasing costs.
Rue Fox: And in reality it’s almost like the people that haven’t paid their rent at this point or made any effort to reach out to the office staff and work through it. Those units could be in really bad shape at this point.
Janel Ganim: It could be. So again, I’m thinking about higher maintenance costs.
Because we’re at the beginning of the year, one of the things that we heard quite a bit about, and I’ve actually seen some follow-up from the CARH staff post-conference is the approval of the 2022 budgets. And one member spoke up and said he had 65 properties and 37 of those budgets have not been approved yet.
Rue Fox: When are they due to be approved?
Janel Ganim: I believe it was at the beginning of this year.
Rue Fox: A little behind.
Janel Ganim: And so, you know, what does that mean in reality? Because you know, okay, a budget is approved, whatever, but that’s tied to rent increases. So they’re saying at the rate they’re going, you know, rent increases that they would have liked to have put into place in January may not happen now until April at the earliest. So again, you’ve [00:16:00] got these properties that, that need to collect those rent payments.
Rue Fox: Desperately need cash flow.
Janel Ganim: Absolutely. They need it for their mortgages. They need it for salaries. They need it for maintenance costs and things like that. So I know they desperately want to see those rent increases come through, but I hate to see that delay for them.
Supply Chain Issues & Staffing Shortages
Janel Ganim: So there was the ongoing conversation about supply chain issues and how that impacts developments, new developments, new construction. But also just maintaining, like you said, you know, how are. How are these units now? Right. And if you’ve got to go back and if you’re rehabbing units or you’ve got to replace appliances or things like that.
So still some delays there.
Rue Fox: I mean, how do you get them otherwise? It’s pretty tough. Pretty unfortunate.
Janel Ganim: It is for sure. The other thing that we heard too, was just the ongoing discussion about staffing shortages.
Rue Fox: What are they doing though? Because you know, this has been an ongoing conversation. And how is our industry getting out there and encouraging younger people to step in?
Janel Ganim: I think it’s tough now, in some cases, property management in particular, we do see some of this being generational, right? So you’re bringing in family members, you’re thinking about succession planning so that’s certainly a wonderful way to do this. I know that there are some universities that have property management programs. I know there’s one in Virginia. I can’t think of it off the top of my head. I want to say it’s in Richmond maybe I can’t remember, but I know that universities are doing property management programs. So certainly trying to recruit from there, but you know, one of the things that they said and I don’t know that you and I have run across this before, but they said part of the labor shortage is older workers who were just saying, you know what, I’m just going to retire and I’m not going to come back into the workforce. And that was actually where a lot of their maintenance staff was coming from. So, you know that’s unfortunate to see that because that’s a lot of experience walking out the door. And then they said their issue with younger workers then [00:18:00] is if they’re paying 14, $15 an hour, they don’t want to work at that rate. They are expecting a higher rate. So, and you know, it’s not just this industry we see this challenge across the board. I mean, how many times have you driven down the street and you know, there’s a sign on the fast food place with a $500 signing bonus offer. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Job fairs, I think are great as well, but it’s networking and it’s, I see lots of posts all the time on LinkedIn, too. Right. You know, who do you know? Who’s excited. And it has a passion for this, you know, there, there’s lots of people hiring. So I think anytime people can refer people, you know, to openings through their network. I know that we’ll repost a lot of times when we see people that are looking for employees,
Rue Fox: You know, I think colleges should offer an educational course in affordable housing, as well. I don’t run a college, but if any of you guys out there run a college. There’s an idea.
Janel Ganim: Maybe there’s our next level thing where we go start an affordable housing college. No big deal. True. It’s easy.
Rue Fox: But we do know people who are really smart that could help.
Janel Ganim: We do. Yeah. You know, the other thing that was brought up and it was, I hate to kind of leave this one on a down note, but, you know, they said with shortage in staffing, the increased wages… you know, someone made a comment that there’s properties that have been financially stable for years, and they said this could be a huge turning point for those properties. And really kind of just a breaking point that they’re really concerned about budget impacts and, you know, getting those rent increases and looking at those increases in expenses and it, and it’s really sad to see that.
Rue Fox: I don’t know how they can pay higher workers’ wages when they can’t even collect their rent.
Janel Ganim: Yeah. So it’s going to be tough. So again, our hearts really go out to you. We, we know that it’s a challenge. And we’ve been hearing this for the last, I don’t know, several months when, as we’ve attended conferences and listening to member calls and things like that. And it’s tough and anything we could do [00:20:00] to help, you know, if we can refer candidates over to you from our network or repost your job openings, we’re happy to do that, but it’s, it’s tough right now for sure.
Rue Fox: It is tough right now. I’d love to have a conversation with anybody out there that would be willing to talk about how you think that you could reduce your expenses and be more efficient with what you’ve got.
Electronic Signatures, Documents and Storage
Janel Ganim: Yeah, for sure. So thinking of reducing expenses. You know, moving into our next topic. I really wanted to spend some time talking again about electronic signatures, electronic documents, electronic storage of those documents. This industry spends a lot of money on paper.
Rue Fox: Yeah they do.
Janel Ganim: A lot of money on paper, a lot of money on storage of files, things like that. So, you know, we’ve talked I think in every episode about electronic signatures and about what a wonderful thing this is that this industry can take advantage of. But we continue to see really low adoption of this, which is somewhat surprising to me. But you know in conversations in the industry and talking with some of our colleagues, there tends to be a lot of analysis paralysis with the “Where do I start?”
Rue Fox: Well, and part of that is too, some of it is expensive. Some of it (other software) is not really cost-effective. I happen to know a really cost-effective solution.
Janel Ganim: There’s the shameless plug. Cheers.
Rue Fox: (laughter) If anybody has any interest in learning anything about it, please reach out to me. Yeah. Sorry. I’m very opportunistic.
Janel Ganim: And that’s okay. We love you for it. So I think the thing to remember and my advice to any of you that haven’t gotten started on. It’s not all or nothing. Really one of the key things to start with is just get your applicant or your resident’s permission, right? You have to get their permission to allow electronic documents. So there’s a couple of ways you can do this. You can add a question to your application. “Hey, are you okay receiving electronic documents?” You can add it to an annual [00:22:00] recertification checklist for your residents: “Are you okay getting electronic documents?”
I’ve also seen people do a one-time form during that interview, whether it’s moving or it’s annual recertification, you sit down with them and give them a form. I know that there are people in the industry that have created forms and sell form packages. You might want to talk with your attorneys on making sure you’ve checked all the boxes, that you you’ve covered everything, but give them a form. Get that permission. That’s really your first step. Right?
Rue Fox: I don’t disagree with that, but I’ll take it to a different place too, because I’m not sure that the whole industry really understands what is truly an electronic document or electronic signature. Though it is education as well.
Janel Ganim: It is education. I know that the AHMAs do a good job of talking about this at their conferences. I know Rue and I have attended SAHMA I’ve spoken at it there. I’m speaking at it at a conference again in a couple of months. SAHMA Kentucky.
Rue Fox: That was one of our big announcements at the end.
Janel Ganim: It’s one of the big announcements but it’s not the big one. So still stay tuned. There’s more coming. But your regional associations, whether it’s CARH whether it’s your AHMAs whether it’s NAHMA and look at trainers in the space. They are doing sessions on electronic signature and offering suggestions on how to get started too. So. Take advantage of that. You know, we’ve talked about this before, read the notice following up with your software vendor. If you’re not really sure what they handle I can tell you the major software vendors all do this and are compliant. So if you have concerns about whether or not it’s legally acceptable, we’ve, we’ve checked those technical boxes for you.
Rue Fox: We’ve all worked with HUD to be sure that we are okay.
Janel Ganim: We have all done that and we’ve talked about this before: we’ve been doing it for a long time on the conventional side, military student, you know, they all use it as well. But again, think back, think about starting small first and foremost. Get that permission from your resident or applicants to accept electronic documents.
And here’s the [00:24:00] thing you don’t have to make all of your electronic documents available. Start with a required form. Start with your VAWA documents, your 9987 packages for consent, your resident’s rights and responsibilities, your house rent determined on the AR side, start with your 120 year and 90 day notices. And it can be as simple as sending them links to your forms, putting the forms on your applicant and resident portals, your websites, if you have that for your properties, which by the way, I highly recommend that you have, if you don’t. It’s a great way to get traffic. As people look for housing in their area, it’s a great way to get some leads. And I know a lot of you, and especially in the bigger markets have really long wait list and getting leads isn’t really your issue. But if you think about even rural properties, you know, in trying to attract people and, you know, making people aware that there is housing available in that area.
Rue Fox: Well, thinking back to what you were talking about about the consent, if you’re using an online application, there is a place in your online application process that your applicant gives that consent. So most likely if you’re using an online application, you’ve already gotten their consent. So you might follow up on that. And then the other thing is be sure you’re collecting all the emails because today, I would wager that almost every household has an email. They’ve all got smartphones. They’ve got some kind of Gmail and Outlook, something.
Janel Ganim: Yeah. That’s a great point, Rue, because we see that sometimes where people aren’t gathering that email address. Get it from your prospects, get it on your guest cards,
Rue Fox: Make it required!
Janel Ganim: Yeah, absolutely. Make it a required field. You know, again, your website, if you’re bringing in traffic that way and you’re having them fill out a form make it a required field. Make sure you’re asking your residents during your annual recertification process. You haven’t collected it? Add that to your checklist. “Do we have a current [00:26:00] email address for you?” Because in addition to putting links on your website and saying, I’m not going to print out the paper form, but here’s the link right here on my website that you can go and download these. There are other forms that while you have to give them out in paper, how many people are going to pay attention to a piece of paper that you’ve posted on a bulletin board, or you’ve shoved it under their door or whatever the case may be? Even if you’re required to have a paper document, you can always follow up with an email. So you know, things like changes to the lease changes to utility allowances that 60 day notice for annual recertifications, follow it up with an email. If you think about how many times you’re printing out all of those paper documents for your applicants, for your current residents, think about those paper costs. So back to budgets and how am I going to keep my property solid from a financial perspective? It adds up, guys. I mean, it’s a simple way to cut costs, but it adds up so well.
Rue Fox: And here’s the other thing. It’s not only the paper cost, but it’s efficiencies because if all of your forms are in electronic format, guess what? You don’t have to download them and print them and send them somewhere to the corporate office for review or whatever it is. Right? You’ve always got access to those electronic. And that’s efficiency because how many hours is somebody has been doing that? If you’re a large company, a lot of hours are spent there. If you’re managing a large property, a lot of hours are spent on that. So, yeah, there’s so many efficiencies that this functionality can bring you.
And I’ll be happy to show you how ResMan works. Just let me know.
Janel Ganim: Lord. All right. Take a sip for your shameless plug.
So the other thing with electronic signatures that we still hear is, “Well, I have a senior property. My seniors, aren’t going to do this.” But you know what guys? Stop and think about it. And I don’t want to give anything away about my age or Rue’s but senior properties are 62 and older. How many people do you [00:28:00] know that are 62?
Rue Fox: Well what about your mom and dad? Do you send them stuff on email? Seriously, they have adopted this technology, whether you even know it or whether you think about it, they have adopted this technology.
Janel Ganim: My parents are in their seventies. They have iPhones, they have Macs. They text us all the time. You know, and now they’re tech savvy. They’re probably more tech savvy than you think. So, think about that. Now, if you think about older residents, someone in their eighties or they’re 90 or whatever, are they filling out those forms? Probably not. It’s probably their kids who guess what? Are tech savvy.
Rue Fox: Or you have a tablet in the office or a computer in the office where they can come into the office and fill out those electronic forms…
Janel Ganim: Absolutely. Set up a kiosk. But you know, if you think about those residents that maybe their children don’t live in the area, they’re remote… they want electronic forms and they do want that electronic paperless process. And you know what, here’s another bonus too, for your site staff. That’s way more legible than people writing some of these forms. I can tell you from some time that I’ve done compliance file reviews, and you’re trying to think about income calculations and things like that, I can’t read the form sometimes.
Rue Fox: Right.
Janel Ganim: So I’d take an electronic form any day.
Rue Fox: I can’t read the forms I fill out sometimes. (laughter)
Janel Ganim: I can’t help you with that. Alright. So again, our biggest takeaways here today are talk to your representatives. Be an advocate for housing. Ask them to continue to be a champion or educate them on the need for housing. Work with your contract administrators, Section 8 guys on your contract renewals.
Rue Fox: Well, and I really can’t stress this enough and I know I talk about it all the time when we’re on this. There are so many things that your NAHMAs and your AHMAs and your CARHs do on behalf of owners and agents. And they that grassroots level [00:30:00] of effort and they start things and they’ll even send you letters that all you have to do is download it, put your name to it, and send it out. So there are so many things to do. If, if you’re lost about where to go. Consider even doing something like that. It is very valuable and beneficial for owners and agents to be a part of that.
Janel Ganim: Yeah, absolutely. And again, if you haven’t gotten on the electronic signatures, electronic documents, electronic storage bandwagon, I’m going to strongly encourage you. It is a way to save some money. Stop buying so much paper. Stop storing files. Start somewhere. You don’t necessarily have to go back and scan all your documents and file them. Some people are doing that right? And some people will hire interns or whatever the case may be, and they just kind of chip away at it. But start now, start with your AR, start with your move-ins, whatever the case may be. Start with the permission from your applicants and residents. Start with the links on your website. If you’re unsure, reach out to us on LinkedIn! We’re happy to talk through that process too.
Upcoming Events and Big Announcement!
Janel Ganim: Or you can see us on the road. Rue and I are going on the road again. We’re so excited that things have opened up and there are more conferences that we are going to, so
Rue Fox: Where are we going to be, Janel?
Janel Ganim: Well, it’s funny you asked.
Rue Fox: I get to be at the next one.
Janel Ganim: So, in March is the NAHMA meeting in DC. As Rue said, she will be there. I’ll be there in spirit. Let’s be honest. It’s spring break for my kid. I’m going to be in Cabo, but anyway, I’ll be there in spirit and we’ll still give you updates afterwards. Rue’s gets to take notes this time. Yay, Rue!
Rue Fox: Oh boy. That’s a lot on me cause I am not the greatest note taker, no pressure.
Janel Ganim: And I have every confidence in you. In April, we’re going to be on the road a couple of times in April to o. Rue said, I let the cat out of the bag. We are going to the SAHMA Kentucky conference early in April. I’m going to be moderating a panel on my favorite topic, electronic signatures. Yay! I’m excited about that, but then we’re also going to be headed up to the Pacific [00:32:00] Northwest.
We are going to the AHMA Washington conference, as well. It’s in Spokane, Washington. And we’re excited. We’ve got some customers that are in the Pacific Northwest. We’re excited to go and see them.
And then in May, where’d you go, we’re just going to keep the suitcase packed. Well, before she gets too excited in May, we will be at AHMA PSW which is in Southern California.
So I’m excited about that one that was in LA and Rue isbouncing in her seat right now, clapping.. And I don’t know if you’re going to hear her clapping, but we did say that we had a big announcement for you at the beginning. And…
Rue Fox: I wish I had a drum roll.
(Rue and Janel drum roll on table)
Janel Ganim: ResMania. We are ridiculously excited. So it is our ResMan user conference.
Rue Fox: Get ready to rumble! (laughter)
Janel Ganim: We have been talking about this. We had it scheduled in 2020. We all know what happened there. We thought about it again for a hot minute last year and well, you know, variants. And so now we’re like third time’s a charm. It’s happening.
It is May 9th through 11th. It is in Plano, Texas. It is at the beautiful Renaissance hotel that is in Legacy West. Rue and I like to frequent that area. It’s got some fantastic restaurants. So we’re excited! We have been working on the agenda. That’ll be finalized, I want to say this week. Registration is open. We have already had a phenomenal response to this. I am so excited.
But, one of the things that I am the most excited about. And again, if you’re not watching the video, you should see our faces. We’re grinning ear to ear. There is an entire track of sessions that is affordable. So we have got an amazing lineup for you guys. And I think the thing I’m most excited about is the last session that day will be. A live recording of Cocktails & Compliance from ResMania
Rue Fox: With our studio audience. And can I say it?
Janel Ganim: Absolutely.
Rue Fox: We have two of the most [00:34:00] amazing people in the affordable housing space. Jenny DeSilva with DeSilva Housing Group and Stacy Day with Karen Graham Consulting. So that’s a HUD expert and that is a tax credit expert. They are going to be guesting with us live on Cocktails & Compliance. So we are so excited. If you don’t know about them, go look them up on LinkedIn, please. If you’re, if you’re interested in joining us, you know, shoot Janel or I questions that you might like to have us address during that session, because we’re going to have some really, really expert people in the field. So we’re super, super excited.
Janel Ganim: You know what else we’re going to have?
Rue Fox: Oh, my goodness. We’re going to have cocktails.
Janel Ganim: So I’m sure we’ll come up with some sort of signature user conference cocktail to celebrate our special guests. But I’m so excited to do this with a live audience, take questions from the audience, if you guys submit stuff. But we would love to see you there. So, so excited about our special guests. Rue and I have known Jenny and Stacy for a really long time. I think that we’ve all been in the industry, probably the same amount of time.
Rue Fox: Ooh, I’m not going to lie. I am pretty honored that they accepted our invitations to speak for us. So we are super excited to take the stage with those two.
Janel Ganim: All right. Speaking of getting ready to rumble with us at ResMania, here’s where you can register. Go to ResMania.myresman.com and sign up and we will see you there. As always check out PropTalk powered by ResMan for Cocktails & Compliance Updates. We have other podcasts as well. Watch our myresman.com website. We put blog content out. In fact, we put something out recently about electronic signatures and about that adoption, things to look forward to this year, things you should be considering. So watch for that content as well as always, Rue and I will share content on LinkedIn. We’ll share on Facebook. If you [00:36:00] haven’t connected with us, please do so.
Rue Fox: And I’ll just go ahead and warn you. If you look at my profile and we’re not connected, I’m going to send you to connection requests because… Why don’t we connect?
Janel Ganim: She does she figures if you’re going to take the time to look, she’s like, oh, we’re connecting.
Rue Fox: Oh, we’re on.
Janel Ganim: It’s on. So everybody again, we appreciate all that you do in the industry. Thank you for joining us. And we will see you next time.
Rue Fox: Happy New Year and Happy Valentines’ Day, everybody.
Elizabeth Francisco, President of ResMan, continues our Trailblazing series with Victoria Cowart, Director of Education and Outreach at PetScreening™ to discuss Victoria’s career growth and changes throughout her time working in the property management industry. Elizabeth and Victoria share the reality of moving up in the world and how the two of them both learned about and contributed to the property management industry and later reaped the rewards in their career because of it.
It’s hard to believe that many Affordable Housing properties are still using paper-based filing systems. With paper filing comes a lot of unnecessary risk. Think about if your property were to experience a fire, flood or any other natural disaster that would result in the loss of documents. There would be no backup or chance of retrieving important files. It’s not just an unexpected disaster that can cause problems. Human errors occur every day and can contribute to the loss of files which is why filing cabinets and paper filing desperately need to be left behind. So why hasn’t everyone moved to electronic document storage and what is the solution?
While it sounds exciting to have technology automatically store documents for you, the thought of moving from paper to electronic can quickly turn that excitement into a state of panic. When you look at your filing cabinets and how much scanning and organizing it would take to transfer them digitally, switching may seem like a time-consuming, no-end-in-sight project. This results in analysis paralysis.
But there are options you can consider when it comes to adopting technology without having to worry about transferring everything over right away. One of the most common approaches is just starting to use technology to store newly created documents online. Don’t stress about all the documents prior to today. If you start today, then annual reporting in 2023 will be a breeze! But if you continue to wait, it will always feel like there’s no end in sight to the pain of paper-based annual reporting.
Should you want to tackle all your old files, treat it as a project you can chip away at. Consider hiring an intern or have your staff dedicate one hour each Friday to scanning and organizing files.
Document Storage Costs Should Not Be A Deterrent
One concern with switching to paperless documents is the ongoing cost of electronic document storage. Document storage plans are not always free, and when looking at the number of documents you create and file on average, that cost can add up quickly. However, when you consider the cost of the space needed to store and time needed to manage paper documents, you will most likely find that storing documents electronically is actually cheaper.
As you are looking for an electronic document storage solution, be sure to compare costs. Some software (like ResMan) comes with unlimited document storage as part of your property management platform subscription, while others charge extra based on volume. If you do go with a volume-based plan, to minimize any initial cost impact, you can simply start by uploading new files. Then, over time, old files will reach their retention limits and you’ll be done with paper documents and filing cabinets for good!
Another benefit of storing documents electronically is being able to move applications and leasing online, which makes operations much smoother for both tenants and for your team. In 2020, HUD approved the use of electronic signatures which cleared the way for Affordable properties and their residents to handle the majority of their paperwork electronically. Electronic signatures eliminate the delay associated with finding a meeting time that works for both the prospective tenant and the onsite team. They reduce the amount of traffic coming into the leasing office, allowing the site staff to focus on other tasks. They have also systematized the application process which produces electronic timestamps to secure positions on waitlists, minimizing the opportunity for discrimination or bias.
The concept of an electronic signature is sometimes confusing for teams initially because folks assume that signing a paper document and scanning it to store electronically makes it an electronic signature. This is NOT the case. Electronic signatures do not involve paper and pen. Instead, documents such as applications and leases are presented to tenants to be signed online through a phone or computer using software that meets specific security requirements.
Lean on Your Provider Software to Support Your Transition
One of the main concerns that arises around switching to online applications, leasing and electronic signatures is getting staff trained and up-to-speed so there aren’t any hiccups. Of course, you want to know your staff are doing things correctly but the idea of training staff for a new tech stack sounds like a feat.
This is where your software provider should step in. Software providers have been transferring documents into digital and working with electronic applications and payments for years within conventional, student housing and military housing. Affordable housing has just been a late adopter. However, it’s clear software providers are experienced and trustworthy. Ask your software provider for help as they know all the guidelines around electronic signatures and electronic documentation and might even have video tutorials to share more information.
Technology is Secure, Efficient, and Effective
Moving your documents, applications, leases, payments and recertifications online will make everything easier for your team and your tenants. Your staff will be well trained with support from your software provider, and should be well-equipped to handle document storage smoothly. Your applicants can apply online andtenants will be able to sign leases for your staff to review much quicker and with little to no hassle, ensuring a more streamlined process.
Additionally, annual reporting season will be a breeze as software can give specific access to auditors so they may access documents electronically, saving staff time from the digging up of documents and back-and-forth emailing. With technology, auditors can do all their tasks remotely instead of at the leasing office.
All in all, technology will enable your property to be more efficient, saving both time and money, as well as decreasing disruptions in your overall operations and annual reporting seasons. And if you’re one of the properties stuck in analysis paralysis, consider the ideas and options suggested above to ensure effective and useful adoption along the way.
Want to stay up to date on the Affordable Housing industry? Like and download our Cocktails & Compliance Podcast.
Engaging customers and prospects through organic social media is one of the most popular marketing strategies for businesses right now. With 4.2 billion users on social platforms and the majority of users spending over 2 hours a day scrolling, social media is a great opportunity for your property to be made known. Yet, many businesses, both large and small, are missing the opportunity social media offers for their brand. Some might be overwhelmed by the idea and don’t know where to start. Others just don’t understand exactly what they’re missing.
But in reality, most of your present and future residents are online scrolling every day and that is motivation to step into the world of social media for your brand. Plus, it’s free marketing! Organic social media costs nothing but a little bit of time and effort that eventually reaps high rewards, including new leases and increasing resident retention.
If the idea is still overwhelming for you and you aren’t sure where to start, remember that starting is the most important piece to doing social media. Just like getting back to the gym after some time away, it takes practice and consistency to get the rewards you want.
Choose a Starting Point
We recommend starting small. There are several social media platforms and each of them is different in audience, content and commitment. Most of the younger generations are on platforms to fill up spare time, connect with friends and find entertainment. Gen X and Baby Boomers shift in their motivation to use social media as they mostly use it for connection and the news. However, Facebook and Instagram are the most widely used platforms by all generations.
Since we’re starting small, you can pick one social media platform to start, but we recommend trying out a platform you’re most familiar with. Eventually, you can add more platforms the more you feel comfortable. Instagram and Facebook can be connected to post together at once to make sharing content easier. Videos you share can eventually go on YouTube. There’s plenty of opportunity to build upon a foundation later.
Once you have created a page or account, add in the necessary details to fill out a profile. Add your logo as a profile photo and fill out your biography as well as a Call-To-Action that takes people to your website. After you’ve added the basic account information, now you can start inviting people to follow the page. Share a link on your website or email your residents to let them know. You can find helpful tips for spreading the word here.
Before going into the details of posting on your social media, remember not to stress. Make it fun and simple for yourself to start. We will show you the tools so you can be better equipped and supported as you get rolling.
One of the first problems you’ll run into is having content to share on your social media pages. One of the common ways content marketers can create consistent social posts is by having what’s called pillar content.
Pillar content is best thought as large pieces of content that answer a complete question in full. The trick is around what the question is asking. The vaguer a question is, the more content you can write about. If your pillar content is too granular or specific, you won’t have as much to repurpose from that.
Here are a couple of examples that exemplify pillar content versus social content:
Pillar content: What are ways to keep your apartment peaceful? Here are 9 ways how.
Social content: Is your closet a wreck? Use a closet organizer!
Pillar content: What’s in your property’s neighborhood? 8 things to do during San Diego’s summertime.
Social content: Free this weekend? Take a 3-minute walk to the Farmer’s Market in downtown San Diego!
Content marketing is about working smarter, not harder. When you create one pillar content piece, you might be able to create up to 15 social posts from that piece alone. You are working smarter when it comes to social media when the pillar content is helping you create posts to share.
A blog could have 6-8 sections. Those sections or chapters could have 2-3 quotes or statistics. You can see how social media can be easier when you have one good pillar content piece to work from.
TIP: When thinking about what pillar content to create, think about your residents. What do they care about outside of just having a place to live? Here are some ideas:
Write a blog helping residents with their apartment living: decorating, family activities in the neighborhood, hosting holidays with family, etc.
Share third party articles with valuable information for residents and pose your property as a resource for all things apartment-living.
Put on events for your residents and use social media as a way to promote and recap your event.
Look what neighboring properties are posting on their social media channels for inspiration on pillar content.
Talk to your front office staff who talk with residents daily for brainstorming more pillar content ideas.
Social Media Tools
Have you ever wanted to post on social platforms but were worried about how it looks or reads? This is where the right tools can support you better for organic social media. No one is expecting your property to have the prettiest Instagram or Facebook in the world. This is where practice comes in naturally. You will get better as you go. There are some tools that are free or inexpensive for you to boost the visual attractiveness of your social media a bit:
Canva – Canva is a great and free online tool with customizable templates for any sort of print or digital content. From social media images and video templates to infographics and flyers. You can add logos, change the text and add images to thousands of templates and instantly have content to share to your social media pages. For a small price, you can have access to an entire library of templates for more options than the free plan.
Creatopy / Bannersnack – If you want to get a little fancier, you can have more animated and design-focused templates to use for your pages through Creatopy. This might make more sense for platforms like Instagram and Facebook as it is usually used for ads but has compelling visuals and easy-to-use templates.
Hootsuite – Use Hootsuite to schedule your posts. This is helpful with saving time while still having consistent content uploaded. You can spend 30 minutes on a Monday morning creating the images for the week in Canva or Creatopy and schedule them out so you don’t have to post every day manually. Hootsuite has a free plan for up to 2 social accounts.
Another way to engage your audience and look like a pro is by using hashtags. Hashtags are helpful for gaining attention and followers from people who might not have heard of you before. They can also help you target the audience you want to reach (I.e. luxury apartments would have hashtags geared toward luxury living). You can use tools like Flick to help you get started.
Get Residents and Employees Involved
Getting started can be as simple as getting your employees and residents involved. Your frontline workers are some of the best advocates for your property. Encourage them to ask residents for a quick follow on Instagram or Facebook. Create contests among your employees for content, like event ideas, images, or videos. Reward them with office lunches or a gift card.
You can also create contests with your residents. Have a “Best Decorated Apartment” contest and create a hashtag for your property specifically so you can see what your residents share. Use Canva to create flyers sharing the contest details. Incentivize them with prizes for more excitement. You can partner with a local restaurant to sponsor the contest and reward the winner with a free meal for the family.
Host events for your property and set up a photo booth or hire a local student photographer looking for portfolio work. Share photos online for residents to look for after it’s over. Residents love to engage when you present them with opportunities. Look for the ones that do well and garner support and repeat those regularly.
Social media can seem overwhelming and a lot to commit to from the outside, especially organic social media. But in reality, simple and authentic is better. Organic social media is an investment that can reap heavy rewards for your property, including new leases and an excellent brand experience for current residents. Start somewhere.
Interested in how you can increase traffic and leads through marketing? Check out our latest on-demand webinar.
The New Year is already in full swing and it is going to be a big one for property management companies, specifically in Affordable housing. 2021 was another year of pivoting for the industry as the Great Resignation sparked staffing shortages, we grappled with COVID-related supply chain issues, and we experienced an increase in mental health related incidents at properties. As we enter 2022 these issues are still front and center – plus, it’s now Tax Credit reporting season!
While there’s a lot we can’t control that will continue to require improvisation, we believe there are four changes that affordable housing property management companies can make to better position themselves for success in 2022 and beyond.
1. Automate Tax Credit Annual Reporting
It is annual reporting season for tax credit properties and for many, this comes with a lot of grumbling and moaning. The common denominator for those who are dreading annual reports comes down to how manual the process is for properties who do not have the right software. Tracking down the vast amount of paperwork and reporting all while knowing the smallest oversight could have detrimental effects puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on your team.
By moving to an Affordable housing software now in the new year, you won’t need to put this burden on your team again as the software will create annual reports for you. Keeping all paperwork and reporting within the software and under one roof helps eliminate the chances of human error and reduces manual work around filing and keeping track of important documents. Above all, it saves your team time and stress. You can rest easy throughout the year knowing the next annual reporting season will be more of a breeze.
2. Improve Operating Efficiency and Reduce Risk With Technology
When you look at the last couple of decades and the contributions technology has made to everyday life, it’s not difficult to realize how it can also enable properties to be more efficient and deliver greater value to owners and investors. But how exactly does technology contribute to affordable properties and why is it so necessary to have in 2022?
Some of the immediate benefits revolve around operations. Switching to online leasing and online payments not only helps property managers complete back-office work more efficiently, but also allows residents (who are already proficient in using technology in their everyday lives) to deliver documents and payments with little to no hassle.
To go alongside that, the Great Resignation has mostly stemmed from Millennials and Gen Z demanding a healthier and happier work environment. Seeing as those two generations grew up using technology and have faster adoption to tech than other generations, adding modern tech to your property’s operations will also help attract and retain staff.
Technology has continuously given people back their time. Since time is money, using tech has the indirect benefit of lower operational costs and increased efficiency for your property. This only further contributes to your property’s success as your staff can be better focused on more important tasks at hand.
For example, many Affordable properties are storing documents in filing cabinets, scanning and uploading documents by hand. Having software that creates, stores, and compiles documents frees up time and eliminates the possibility of human errors like losing or misplacing important files. Going paperless with the right technology is actually safer and more secure – and let’s face it, no one loves digging into filing cabinets anymore.
Technology can’t do everything for your property, but it can help you get more done with the team you have and minimize the risk of human error.
For those already using affordable housing property management software or if you’re a software vendor, TRACS 203-A has been an ongoing conversation, and we seem to finally be in the home stretch, with implementation expected to start in the second half of 2022. Currently, software vendors are waiting for further guidance from HUD. One good thing to note is the conversation is picking up speed which is why there is some expectation that implementation will happen soon (“Finally!”).
Once we have an official date, it will be important for vendors to put a plan in place internally to deliver software updates and train teams on the changes. If this isn’t on your radar now, it should be. Our goal is to set up our users for success by having a plan in place to implement changes smoothly and seamlessly.
3. Provide Better Mental Health Support
Mental health has been a hot topic for the Affordable housing industry, as of late. Properties are seeing the effects of the pandemic on their residents and as a result, police calls, domestic violence, gang activity, and suicides have increased noticeably.
Toward the end of 2021, many properties spoke up about putting training in place for frontline workers, specifically for active-shooters, suicide prevention, and general de-escalation training. It’s unfortunate that this is a problem at all for properties, however, it’s important to consider the best ways to enable your frontline staff to handle and recover from catastrophic occurrences around the property.
The more your staff is supported, the more your residents can also be supported. Providing resources for your residents and employees can also indirectly contribute to the growth of your property. A happy staff and happy residents create safety and helps residents get past barriers they may be experiencing in life. Consider having local hotlines and getting corporate involved as a sounding board for your residents and staff. Be sure that contact information for available resources is accessible to those who may need it.
Creating a supportive property will help residents do things like pay their rent in a timely manner and will foster an environment residents can truly call home.
4. Improve Team Satisfaction and Retention
As Affordable properties pivot from the Great Resignation, it’s time to consider what they can do to retain employees and prevent further resignations. What matters most is showing a clear investment in your staff and training them well so they can be set up for success and career growth.
Consider your employees: what skill sets do they have? What are their goals? Use that information to map out individualized career plans to get them where they want to go. Have annual or quarterly check-ins set up between managers and their employees so progress can be evaluated and adjustments can be made accordingly. Employees will stay with you if they are learning and growing.
Encourage management to give positive feedback and affirmation to employees when they complete tough trainings or projects. Affirmation goes a long way in boosting employee’s overall happiness in the workplace. If all feedback is negative despite their growth and progress, they will burnout and leave quickly.
Another thing to consider is allowing a place for employees to give feedback. Statistics show that retention rates for employees decrease 16% when they feel like they can’t give feedback to their management. But remember that this also requires those who receive the feedback to be open-minded and to actually consider the feedback given by frontline staff.
Evaluate your training programs for new employees and recurring training programs for veteran staff. 10% of employees will leave early due to poor onboarding and training experiences.
To read more about emerging trends in Affordable housing, check out this white paper.
Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Victoria Cowart, Director of Education and Outreach at PetScreening™. Victoria helps us answer an often-misunderstood business outlook on pets and multifamily living. She gives insight on what “pet-positive” actually looks like, as well as misconceptions around the costs of pets and how operators can start including pets in their revenue strategies. On this episode, enjoy Victoria’s pet puns and gain insightful knowledge around furry family members and apartment living.
ResMan’s Affordable Compliance experts, Rue Fox and Janel Ganim, cover Affordable Housing Market hot topics with a twist …or a splash, wheel, wedge, etc. – whatever goes with each episode’s featured cocktail!
ResMan Recognized as one of the Top 50 Best Places to Work in Multifamily
PLANO, Texas, Dec. 13, 2021 — ResMan®, a leading property management SaaS platform provider, has ranked #15 in the nationwide Top 50 Best Places to Work Multifamily®. The annual list of “Best Places to Work Multifamily®” is published by Multifamily Leadership and was announced at the Multifamily Awards show on December 8, 2021.
The multifamily industry, serving apartments and their residents, contributes more than $3.4 trillion to the economy annually, supporting more than 17.5 million jobs. As CEOs and executive teams create culture and innovation around the resident experience, employee engagement is seen as a key driver to meet multiple challenges. The Best Places to Work Multifamily® program recognizes those companies who have established and consistently foster outstanding workplace environments.
“We are pleased to be recognized by Multifamily Leadership and our own employees as a great place to work in this industry,” said Michael Dunn, chief executive officer, ResMan. “This is yet another proof point of our commitment to our team culture, and how our employees make ResMan a great place to work every day. I’m so grateful to everyone here for their relentless drive to succeed on behalf of our customers.”
The rigorous assessment process for this award evaluated each company’s employee policies and procedures as well as responses from the company’s employees.
“Employee engagement is actually a much more powerful indicator of organizational success than the size of the company, as employee engagement is tied to behavior and higher performance,” said Patrick Antrim, Founder and CEO of Multifamily Leadership. “Next generation leaders want to know their company is making a positive impact on the world. They want to know the vision and mission of the organization and that the leaders of the organization are going to drive that mission and vision. This is becoming increasingly more important as society is asking businesses to play a bigger role. The Best Places to Work Multifamily® companies have stepped up to play that role and will have a much bigger voice in the future.”